Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Six months and counting…

zoey3

What do you mean this is your chair?

The world of traditional publishing moves s-l-o-w-l-y. And then really fast, like “write up back cover copy, fill out this three-page form with promo stuff, and get it back to me in a week” fast. And then, hurry up and wait. Again.

I’m at the “hurry up and wait” stage. There are a bunch of things I can do now to prepare for my novel’s release in March, including promo stuff that I don’t need a cover for. I happen to be a part of a super-wonderful group of bloggers who have had eureka moments and fine-tuned their promotional stuff, and have graciously shared their experiences on their own blogs or blogs they contribute to.

Which means I have a handy dandy list of stuff to do before March.

I feel like I did when I was trying to write back copy. Or a query. Or a logline. Namely, how the hell do I start?

Well, this Saturday (today!) I’ll be spending all day at the Deep Valley Book Festival manning the Sisters in Crime table, selling anthologies and taking memberships. And observing the process. I imagine I’ll have some time to work on my promo stuff; I’m going to prepare to take advantage of the time, anyway. And I’ll have the opportunity to see how other authors do things.

So, a short post today. Still plugging away on Book 2. And NaNo is approaching. One of my co-workers asked me if I was going to NaNo this year. I’d love to do NaNo, but the only way I’ll be able to is if I can finish the rough draft of Book 2. I’m 35k words in. If I can hit 50k (and/or finish the draft) by November 1, I’ll take on NaNo. I need to get back into the habit of writing 2k words every day, so I’m thinking NaNo would be a good idea.

And for those of you who popped in just because of the cat pics (yes, I know you, B 😀 !), here’s a couple more. It’s been unusually cool for us this time of year, so Zoey took advantage of my fuzzy lap blanket (which I use mostly for my feet). Or should I say furry lap blanket?


It’s her go-to spot when I’m working on my laptop (and my computer is taking up my lap). Then she gets upset when I have to get up to go to the bathroom. On the bright side, she is nice and warm 😀

Have a great weekend!

zoey1

See? My chair.

 

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Double-dose of spooky

It’s October and we all know what that means: a month’s worth of haunted hayrides, haunted houses, haunted amusement parks, and big bags of fun-sized treats. And no one said you have to share with little kids dressed like Batman or ballerinas.

Getting back to the spooky (now that I’m thinking about chocolate ❤ ), this week I had two nights of Halloween-esque fun. Our local Twin Cities chapter of Sisters in Crime has monthly meeting the first Tuesday of every month. At every meeting, one of the members reads from their work (WIP or published) and we have a speaker such as an FBI agent or medical examiner or audiobook producer.

This month we got to hear all about ghosts and spirits from a real-life psychic/medium/paranormal investigator.  Natalie told us her story about realizing her abilities and using them to help spirits cross over. She was fantastic! Now, I am somewhat skeptical, but I firmly believe there are a lot of things we don’t understand about our world, and I think there really are people who are sensitive to things beyond our perception. I mean, with 7 billion people on the planet, someone (many someones) has to be, right?

Natalie shared some of her experiences with us, including a spirit that wanted to cross over on a stairway to heaven, like the song, and it took as long for him to climb the stairs as the song. Another spirit she helped, who had died in an ATV accident, decided he wanted to go on a Harley. Man, when I get there, I want to go on a dragon 😀

All the stories were great inspiration for adding spooky to mysteries. Natalie is a member of our chapter, and accessible. She said watching ghost-hunting shows on TV is not the same as the experience. If there’s a legit paranormal investigation group in your area, they might have opportunities for you to tag along on an investigation, or they may conduct events for groups at known haunted places. In fact, Natalie and her group are doing an event this month at the Palmer House Hotel, a known hot-spot for ghosts.

TC SinC ghost tour 2

picture taken in Anoka by Timya Owen, Twin Cities Sisters in Crime, on the ghost tour

Have you ever heard of Anoka, MN, the Halloween Capital of the World? The historical society there conducts walking ghost tours of the city, complete with historical facts about houses deemed to be inhabited by souls that haven’t crossed over yet. A group of Twin Cities Sisters in Crime (TC SinC) members, including yours truly, went on a tour the night after our psychic speaker primed us for all things paranormal.

The house in the picture above is purported to be the haunting grounds of a little girl who died during the flu pandemic in the early 1900s. Another house has a proper Victorian-age woman who refuses to let the homeowner sleep in on weekends (by banging around), and watches movies with the homeowner on her laptop. (How does the homeowner know? Cold spots where someone might be looking over her shoulders, then she adjusted the laptop, and the cold spots went away)

TC SinC ghost tour 1

Members of Twin Cities Sisters in Crime, pic taken by Timya Owen (I think)

This Masonic Lodge is connected to a house that was built by a couple who were doctors. The house is now an antique shop, but the spirits still hang out; people have even smelled someone smoking (no smoking is allowed in the place, of course). The story about the Lodge involved a member who was there late working on something on one of the upper floors. He finished, turned out the light, down the stairs, locked the door, got into his car…

And the light was on. So he gets out of the car, unlocks the door, goes up the stairs, turns out the light, back down the stairs, locks the door, back out to the car. And it happens again. The third time it happened (this is all the same night, btw) he raced up the stairs, turned the light out, raced back down, and in a mirror beside the door caught a glimpse of trousers and shoes coming down the stairs behind him. The Mason said, “Turn the light off your damn self,” or something along those lines. He locks the door, back to the car. . . . . And the light stayed off.

It was a dark and stormy (windy) night, perfect for a walking ghost tour. From ghosts who warn the house/ building residents of danger by leaving lights on or knocking bowls off of refrigerators to spirits of children running up and down hallways like kids do, there were sooo many ideas for stories.

It was a fun week, and I learned a lot about the paranormal, and the possibilities. I kept thinking about Mae Clair’s most recent book, Cusp of Night, which revolves around a spiritualist and things left behind (and don’t forget her Point Pleasant series with the … oops, not going to spoil it 🙂 ). Another author with some great (IMHO) books involving the paranormal is Kay Hooper and her Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series, which is actually multiple series starting with Stealing Shadows, through the Evil, Fear, and Blood trilogies to the SCU series and the Bishop Files. I’ve also read and enjoyed the Abby Cooper books by Victoria Laurie.

Yeesh, didn’t expect this to be so long. Anyway, if you want some fodder for spooky stories, a ghost tour or a talk from a paranormal investigator will stir up your imagination.

Trying to fight off a cold that just hit me yesterday, so other than pickling all the peppers I rescued before the plants succumbed to frost, I’m going to relax a bit this weekend. Next weekend I’m spending a day at a book festival for TC SinC. Gotta get some experience; my March release is only 6 months away 🙂


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We all can relate

I watched Jurassic World last night for the first time (yes, I know it’s been out for, like, three years, but I’m a little behind. I just saw Hidden Figures last week). It’s a good movie for those who like dinosaurs (me! me!), but as a storyteller, I noticed a few things that made me think of writing, plotting, etc. (Note: if you haven’t seen the movie, just sayin’ there will be spoilers.)


Yes, I know it’s one of those all-action, not much in the line of story-telling movies like so many these days. There was more character development in some of the Transfomers movies (yes, I like big, sentient robots too 😀 )

Anyway, that wasn’t what I noticed. The first thing I noticed is something that my writing teacher mentioned in our Master Novel class. A writer has to draw the reader in, and there has to be conflict of some sort. You know the classics: man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, and man v. society. (I looked this up to verify my memory was working, and discovered now there is one more: man v. the supernatural. Well, I would consider that nature *shrug*)

The conflict is obvious: man v. big bad dinos juiced up by man’s incessant desire to tinker with Nature. How does the saying go? Don’t mess with Mother Nature, she’ll kick your ass. So what if they filled in some DNA gaps with other stuff? You know, like cuttlefish camoflauge DNA or frog DNA (in the first Jurassic Park, that’s what caused the problems in the first place, the spontaneous gender-switch some frogs (lizards too?) will do). What could possibly go wrong?

Character development is at a minimum. The only characters that seem to develop by the end are the main character Claire, who takes the typical “ignore family because of work” to the “family in danger, family is more important” route. The two boys, a teenaged brother and a somewhat younger brother, change from the sulky teen and smart-but-lacking-confidence middle-grader to a stronger, more confident pair who take care of each other.

Yawn.

Where was I? Oh yeah, conflict and drawing the reader in. The part that reminded me of my writing teacher is the drawing the reader in part. Once way to increase conflict and make the reader care more about what happens is to create a bond between characters, either between the one in danger and the hero/ine, or between the protagonist and the antagonist. They did that with this movie, as well as with the first one, Jurassic Park.

In Jurassic Park, the man who started the park, Hammond, invited his grandkids to see the park before it opens. Of course, the kids get into trouble when the dinos get loose, but there is a family tie, which automatically ramps up the tension. In Jurassic World, the woman managing the new park, Claire, is tasked to babysit her nephews while her sister and brother-in-law deal with marital issues. Once again, the kids get into trouble with the super-smart, bad-ass dino gets loose.

See a pattern? Tension is increased when the conflict involves a relative or loved one. Even the first Jack Reacher book had a family tie: Reacher’s brother is killed, and Reacher hunts for the culprit.

A reliable way to draw readers into the story is to use family ties of some sort, because everyone has experienced having a sibling or parent or significant other or favorite/hated relative. We care more about people we can relate to, which is why in my debut novel I include a family tie, where in the first draft I had none. It made a huge difference in how the reader cared about the main character.

The plot was pretty typical action movie stuff. Bad guy/dinosaur/robot/supernatural creature terrorizes hero/ine’s loved ones, good guy’s goal is to save loved ones and beat the bad guy, in spectacular, CGI-laden, heart-pounding, explosion-ridden, magic/mutant power-blasting style.

The other thing I noticed was the ending (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT). Granted, I didn’t sit down and watch the whole thing; I was making fresh salsa for my home-from-college-for-the-weekend daughter during the first 30 min of the movie, so I might have missed something, but when Claire released the kraken–er, wait, wrong film. When Claire released the T-Rex, I had to suspend my disbelief. It was the T-Rex from the original movie, but I don’t remember them mentioning the old T-Rex at all. I could rewatch the whole movie (or I could just rewatch the first half hour) to find out if they foreshadowed the T-Rex, but really? I mean, talk about deus ex machina.

Do not do that in your writing. Seriously. Totally blew the experience for me, because I was wracking my brain for anything about the old T-Rex from earlier in the movie. I might have to rewatch it anyway.

Repeat after me: No magic/unexpected solutions to finish off the bad guy. No pulling a rabbit out of a hat to beat the bad guy if you haven’t told readers about the killer rabbit earlier. Just. Don’t.

Today will be apple bread and chocolate chip cookie day. And little, if any, writing. Sigh.

Have a great weekend!


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Look! Cover Reveal! #amreading #paranormal #urbanfantasy

Hey, lookie here! Check this out–fellow blogger Marcia Meara is revealing her upcoming release. Also, make sure you visit Marcia on her blog, The Write Stuff, where you can find all Marcia’s other books and check out her posts.

COMING SOON!

They’re back!
Jake and Dodger are at it again,
accompanied by their boss, the archangel Azrael.

I am so excited, I can hardly stand it. Once again, Nicki Forde Graphics Design has come up with a cover that does exactly what I wanted it to do. It provides a great-looking image that clearly links the second novella in my Emissary series with the first one. And it does this by putting Jake’s big, red-and-white semi front and center, angel wings and all, but with a completely different background.

In The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody, Jake and Dodger travel both coasts of Florida, day and night, working their emissarial magic wherever they find souls in trouble. For me, the palm fronds over the truck, the ocean in the background, and the moon shining down are perfect.

I can’t give you an exact release date for The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody yet, as I still have a few more tiny odds and ends to finish up, including the blurb. But I’m 99.9% sure it will be available within a week or two, and I’ll have more to share with you then. In the meantime, what do you think?

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who have helped me share my new cover with the Immediate World! It’s lovely to be part of such a supportive online community, and every single one of you is special to me. Thank you!

NOTE: This is not a stand-alone novella, so now’s a good time to grab the first one. You can read it in an evening and be all set for The Emissary 2. You’ll find The Emissary 1 on Amazon HERE.


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Happy Equinox Day!

Okay, so the equinox won’t be until 8:54 pm (CDT). Then we get to welcome autumn. I love autumn. The colors, the smells, the lack of bugs, the impending arrival of winter–wait. Nope, not one of the things I love about autumn. Then again, if we could have winter through, say, January, so we have a white Christmas and all that, then we can do spring. Who’s with me?

This past week we’ve had rain. Not just any rain. We’re talking record rain for September in MN. We’re talking wheelbarrow rain here.

water wheelbarrow No, that is not a kid-sized wheelbarrow. Nor is it parked under a waterspout. We figure we got somewhere around 5-6 inches over the past week. Or more. We don’t have a rain gauge, just the calibrated dog dishes on the deck.

Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going out to the garden, with all the rain and the mud and the mutant zucchini. I tugged on my trusty garden treads and headed out anyway, because I had a blog post to write. 😀

And this is what I found:

Yep, it was a jungle. Things are winding down in the garden about now. The green beans are done, the zucchini are still going, but I might pull them out soon. The cukes are still going, and the tomatoes are in the thick of ripening season.

Speaking of, tomatoes and tons of rain don’t get along all that well. It’s the main reason I went out to the garden sooner rather than later. Take a look:

If I can get the tomatoes right away, we can eat them before they go bad. But if I can’t pick them soon enough, the mold sets in, and the flies start gathering like rats to a piper. Hubs made a batch of spaghetti sauce this week, and I think we need more bacon (BLTs with homegrown tomatoes are the bomb!)

The kale is looking super, but I’m going to try to wait to pick it until after the first frost (if I can wait that long). Some people don’t like it, but I love brussels sprouts, and kale is in the same family. It’ll sweeten a bit after a frost, and it’ll last until it snows.

kale row

Black (aka Dinosaur) Kale (with curly kale in the back)

I promised someone I’d post pics of the peppers I did last weekend. Hubs and I go through phases where we’ll eat pickled peppers as snacks. Think of the pickled peppers you find in the salad at Olive Garden. You can buy them in the grocery store. They are pepperoncini peppers, and a bit on the spicy side, but not too bad.

This year my hubs asked if I would plant some of those peppers so we could try pickling our own (regular pickles from the store are cheaper than the peppers, but the peppers are so tasty!). Well, I found pepperoncini seeds, and voila!

pepperoncini

Pepperoncini peppers

They are prolific! I have done two batches of peppers already, a smaller test batch (which is half gone 😀 ) and a larger batch, and there are enough peppers still out in the garden to do more. A good thing, because I don’t know how long the ones I’ve already done will last.

pickled-peppers.jpg

Homemade pickled peppers

I planted some small snacking peppers as well, but I couldn’t get a good picture of those. I also see another batch of pico de gallo salsa in my future, even if my cilantro is mostly flowering now. I’m sure I’ll find some volunteer cilantro plants since they reseed like crazy.

On the writing front, I’m plugging along. Only about 700-1200 words a night, but more than zero. Slowly but surely, like the tortoise. Or Dory.

dory

 

So, enjoy the first day of Autumn, and Just Keep Writing!


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A Brief but unspectacular post

Hey there! Contrary to my intention this week, I have no ideas for this post. Usually something will pop into my head as I’m writing (or I just con my Muse into writing the post).

Well, this week is pretty much a bust. If I’d been thinking last night, I would have taken some garden pics to post. I am getting ripe tomatoes, even if a critter is eating some of them. Nothing like getting out to the garden, grabbing a nice, ripe tomato, and finding out the back side is gone and the remains are a party floor for bugs. Yeesh.

Everything else is winding down. I planted pepperoncini peppers this year with the intent to pickle them. I did a small batch a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Success! So this weekend will be more pickling, along with pico de gallo salsa (at my daughter’s request) and cleaning.

Ugh. BTW, make sure you let me know well in advance if you plan to stop by. Just sayin’.

I follow a lot of blogs, and I’m waaaay behind, so don’t be disappointed if I missed yours over the past week or so. I’m trying to catch up 🙂 .

Also, I’ve talked about the Writers’ Institute that happens every spring at UW–Madison. Last spring I was there with my Writing Sisters, and a blizzard. Next spring it’s scheduled for the first weekend in April, and this week I found out both my workshop proposals were accepted. So I will be there, and with my new book! Murder in Plane Sight is scheduled to be released in March 2019. If you’ve wanted to go to a writers’ conference, this one is stellar! The full schedule isn’t finished yet, but hey, I’ll be there. Come on out to Madison and say “Hi”!

That’s about all for now. Have a wonderful, writing-filled weekend!


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Guest Post–End of Day Cover Reveal #mystery #suspense #amreading

I’m thrilled to help my wonderful blogging friend, Mae Clair, with today’s cover reveal for her second Hode’s Hill novel, End of Day. If you haven’t read the first one, Cusp of Night, what are you waiting for?
Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weeds

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller

Publisher:  Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint

BLURB:

The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined in a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. In order to set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

End of Day can be read as a stand alone novel or as a follow-up to book one of the Hode’s Hill series, Cusp of Night.

End of Day is available for pre-order through this link

and available to add to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up  

Website & Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | All Social Media

bio box for author Mae Clair