Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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New Year, absent writer?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

“Hello?”

My voice echoes in the dimness like a shout in the Sydney Opera House. Faded light from the foggy winter landscape outside strains to illuminate my writer’s empty office. I flip a switch. The dim retreats.

“Julie?”

Where the bloody hell is she? Since NaNo, she’s been writing every day, especially over the holidays. That is, until this week. I can hear her reasoning now: I took the whole week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, plus the weekends, and we didn’t go anywhere because COVID. Now I’m back to work, so no, I’m not writing as much as I did the past couple weeks.

If she was here, I’d tell her she needs to write every day whether she’s on vacation or not. Once her vacation was over, her writing dropped off a cliff. Not a cliffhanger cliff, a writing cliff. And now she’s AWOL.

“Julie? Don’t make me send out the dragons.”

No answer.

Sigh. Her desk is empty. Messy, but empty. The recliners are empty. I check the little fridge. That’s empty, too? The wall-sized white board is not empty, thank goodness. Notes cover the surface in various colors. At least I know she’s planning to come back.

I open the back door of the office. Icy fog coats the naked trees in frost and filters the sunlight into a dull glow.

Bootprints lead from the office into the fog. “Julie!” Damn it.

What? You thought we come and go at our writer’s whim? You think writers have a little bell they ring to call up a muse every time they sit down to write? Ha! We know writers work better when they open themselves to us, not when they sit down and ask us to shove creative energy into them. Although that can work, we usually save that as a backup plan.

In my vast store of experience (and no, I’m not going to tell you how long I’ve been doing this gig), we get the best results when we hang out around our writer all the time. Not that we don’t take a break for a pub crawl or surf outing, but we’re like the cat that shows up wherever you are, too damn tenacious to shake.

A figure appears in the fog, trudging toward me. About fecking time. “Where have you been, love?”

She blows out a cloudy breath. “I have shit to do, and it’s cramping my writing time. And focus. And I haven’t even gotten to the cleaning. I needed to walk.”

“What shit to do?” I ask, challenging her. I know exactly what she’s doing. Procrasinating. Happens every time she goes back to work after a long vacation, even when she works from home.

She narrows her eyes before she rolls them. “You really need me to list the stuff?” She shoves past me into the office. “Which reminds me, I need to make a list.”

“There’s a list on the board, love.”

“A new list. One that includes redoing my website, catching up with blog reading–I’m so freaking far behind, and taxes. Gotta pay sales tax for the three books I sold last year. Sheesh. I’ll be glad when we can do in-person events again. This virtual stuff doesn’t foster that connection between writer and reader.”

“And the novella is on that list, right?” I ask. “Along with the editing of your police procedural and finishing the first draft of the rural mystery?”

She toes her boots loose and flips them off. “Yeah, but first Book 2. And damn it, I can’t fricking focus anymore.” She shuffles to the fridge.

“It’s empty. I checked.”

She sighs. “You know, this year at work we have to use up all our vacation by the end of the year, since we’ll be starting on our new parent company’s self-managed time off scheme next year. I think I’m going to spend some time at that little place with the cabins up toward Lake Mille Lacs. All by myself.”

“Alone?”

Another eye roll. “Gawd. You know what I mean. A whole week of nothing but you and me and writing. No TV, no garden, no work, no cleaning, no anything except writing. In the woods.”

“Sounds nice, love. Any pubs nearby?”

She groans. Or growls. I can’t tell. “I’ll be back.” She swings the office door open. “I’m going to get some water. And I need some help coming up with a good short story to submit. Maybe a ghost story. Has to be a mystery.” She leaves.

I think I’ll pop out to hunt down some nice lager. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

Hey all, sorry I’ve been quiet; been trying to focus on writing and staying away from social media and news as much as possible. News bums me out (although I feel more hopeful now that Jan 20 is closer), and since hubs is a news junkie and has to have the TV on incessantly, I’ve been struggling a bit. On the bright side, weather’s been nice, so I’ve been walking. It’s great! Don’t knock the power of a good walk outside, preferably in the embrace of nature.

Happy Writing!


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Return of the Muse

My blog-writing, fantasy novelist buddy Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror has invited her visitors to write a short story about our muses.

Heh.

I remember the last time we had a muse read-around. Man, what a blast!

I’ve finally passed 50k for NaNoWriMo–yippee! Of course, the story isn’t done yet. I’ll take a couple weeks to finish, or at least get mostly finished with it before I return to Book 2.

My Muse has been writing my posts during NaNo. Mostly. Thing is, when I hit 50k, he called Mr. E and the two of them took off on a pub crawl Down Under, because apparently bars around here are substandard.

Image by mlproject from Pixabay

A crisp breeze gusts through my writing office, sending shivers through me. The back door clicks shut. A scent of fried food, stale beer, and sweat permeates the air. My Muse toes off his deck shoes and hangs up a red windbreaker on the coat tree. He’s wearing a new pair of jeans, judging by the lack of worn seams, and a rugby jersey. Not as nice as his burgundy henley, but it does leave his forearms bare.

“That was a short crawl. Thought you and E would make a long weekend of it.”

He leans a hip on my desk, and crosses his arms on his broad chest. “He said he had to get back to Mae.”

“And you can’t find another muse to hang with? Diana has a whole convention over at her place.”

He grimaces. “The Merc and I have an understanding.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. He understands I don’t follow his orders or requests, or hell, directions to the nearest Seven-11, and I understand a lack of personal hygiene and the stench of battle are none of my business.”

“O-kay. I sense a bit of animosity there.”

He pulls up a chair and straddles it, bringing his face even with mine. Whoa. His eyes are bluer than I remember. Was that divot in his chin always so enticing? And dimples. I haven’t noticed his dimples for a month. Is it getting warm in here?

A finger-snap yanks my wandering imagination back. “Are you paying attention, love?”

Um, sure. “Would you mind repeating that last part?”

“I said, I tried to warn the Bossy Muse about that guy, but she insisted her writer needed a change of scenery.”

“Scenery?” I ask. “Seriously? I mean, I get the whole Conan the Barbarian thing for the fantasy genre, but even Schwartzenegger would be a better Conan than that brute. At least his nose wouldn’t be crooked.”

My Muse arches a brow. “Schwartzenegger? Why him?”

“I don’t know. He did the movie.”

He shakes his head. “Anyway. You’ve had a couple days off.”

“Hey, one day for enjoying crossing the finish line, and one day to deal with my migraine.”

“I’ll give you the migraine day, but you need to finish the story so you can get back to Book 2.”

I lean back in my chair. “I know. That’s the plan. I figure I’ll give myself until Christmas on this project, then hit Book 2 after Christmas, since we won’t be going anywhere for the holidays anyway. I’m sure there will be another COVID-19 surge by then.”

“Good. Get back to work, love.”

Thanks to Diana for the opportunity to join another round of muse posts!

Keep on writing!

Hey, you! Why aren’t you writing?


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NaNoWriMo Eve, aka Halloween #nanowrimo #amrevising

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Hey, all! Just a quick post because I’m frantically working on my revisions. Almost forgot about Halloween. It’s my daughter’s fave holiday. Me, never got overly excited about it, except that first year my son was old enough to go trick-or-treating. Damn, that was a long time ago!

*shuffle, bang, tussle*

“Hey!”

My Muse points to the recliner in the corner. “Revision, love.”

“But …”

His blue eyes narrow. “Don’t argue.”

Grumble. “Fine. I was going to do that right after I finish this post.”

His brow arches. “I will finish the post. You go write.”

I ponder another cup of coffee. Really. No, I am not admiring his burgundy henley with sleeves shoved to his elbows or his pajama pants complete with Jack o’lanterns and black cats on them. Okay, maybe I am admiring them a little. And his feet are bare. Is that scruff on his face? What was I going to do again?

“Over. There. Revise.” He gives me a little shove toward the corner recliners.

Oh, yeah. Revise.

My lovely writer plops into a recliner and swings out the footrest. About damn time. If she has her shit together, she can finish her revisions today. Tomorrow, all bets are off. I’ve been through this dance before with her. So many times.

Some years, she’s on top of things. This year? I have to give her credit. She’s giving it a good go despite being her Sisters in Crime chapter’s NaNo liason on top of her usual attempt at being a good little writer.

“I heard that!”

“Revise, love. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You bringing my coffee, too?”

Sigh. I have a writer to wrangle. Those of you who are joining my writer for this year’s 50k-thousand-words-in-30-days marathon, good luck!

Here’s a useful Muse tip (at least it works with my writer): Save the good chocolate for your reward when you hit your daily word count. It really works as incentive.

Why are you looking at me? Get writing!


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It’s all in the voice #amreading #amwriting

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Now that the garden is pretty much finished, except for the peppers and the cool-weather stuff like kale and brussels sprouts, I’ve been spending more time writing–well, okay, reading. And not just because Jim Butcher’s Peace Talks came out and the next one, Battle Ground, is being released this very same year! Harry Dresden rules!

I’ve been reading mysteries (and the various flavors of them) lately, but I always make room for select urban fantasies, like Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden, of course. During the wait for the highly-anticipated release of Peace Talks, Butcher’s first new Dresden novel in, like, five years, one of my blogging friends suggested a different series, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

So, I figured, what the heck. It’s UF, and M said it was good. So I read the first book of the series.

Now, for those who don’t read urban fantasy, one thing popular in the genre is snark. The snark is often based on things we know, like books (The Princess Bride, for one), TV shows, movies, or other things of common “modern” knowledge. Butcher does it well. One of my favorites is the first line of Blood Rites: The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault. Not snark as much as tongue-in-cheek.

In the same scene, as Harry is running away from the bad guys, he mentions how his boots were made for walking, not running through hallways (or something like that).

When done well, it makes for an entertaining read. In the Kate Daniels series, they (Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife team) do it so well I laughed out loud more than once (even the second time around). Everything from references to Rambo to the Three Musketeers to jokes made by the main character that the reader “gets” but no one else in the scene does because they aren’t old enough.

Anyway, there are 10 books in the Kate Daniels series. I blasted through the first book in a day. Heck, I blasted through each book in two days (because I had to take time off to do important stuff like pick tomatoes and cleaning 🙂 )

Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done the days I got sucked into Kate Daniels’ world.

Here’s the thing: Many people will only read a book once. I like to reread good books years after I read them the first time to enjoy the prose and the story again. As a writer, I want to figure out why I want to read it again. It’s like watching a TV show in reruns a decade or more later, like MASH or Seinfeld.

This series, however, was different. I have never felt compelled to reread a series right after I read it the first time. Ever. Not even the Pern books by Anne McCaffery. Not even the Eve Dallas series by JD Robb.

When I finished the last book of the Kate Daniels series, I felt drawn back to it. I couldn’t stop thinking about reading it again. (I blame you, M!)

Then my writer brain piped up. Why do I feel compelled to reread this series right after I read it the first time? What is it about the story that makes me want to jump right back into it? It’s like other UF series where the main character is pitted against tougher and tougher opponents, and discovers more about herself and what she can do. It’s like Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series or Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, where each book reveals a little more about the main character and how/why she changes.

But I never felt compelled to reread those series. Why was this one different? The clever snark? Yes, but other series have clever snark. A kick-ass heroine? Sure, but again, other series have kick-ass heroines. Hot guys the main character tries to resist but eventually falls for? Yep, the others have that, too. Awesome secondary characters? Yep, they all have some great backup singers.

World-building? Sure, but like other UF, the world we know is filled with magic and the associated creatures, and the explanations for the juxtaposition are all different, from “it’s always been this way” to some cataclysmic occurrence that introduced magic into our world.

So, what’s left?

Voice. That elusive element that is part of a writer’s style, or at least style for a particular book or genre. Voice is that thing we’re all told we need to find for ourselves, that maddening part of writing that is so hard to define, but we can pick out in other writers’ prose. It’s the voice that draws me back, I think. Andrews’ voice in the KD books is easy-going, natural for the character, and engaging, with a touch of laugh-out-loud humor.

Note that a lot of UF is written in first person POV, so voice and character are woven tight with each other. Come to think of it, almost all the UF I’ve ever read is written in 1st POV.

I won’t even attempt to explain voice, because there are so many other writers and writing teachers out there who have done a good job of it. Check out Janice Hardy, Jane Friedman, and Lisa Hall-Wilson, for starters. Lisa Hall-Wilson has been doing a good series on POV and voice in recent months.

In other news, I have one lesson left to turn in, then I’ll check in with my writing teacher (who runs the program) to see what my next steps are. And just maybe my son will send me some more pictures of his kittens 😀

Happy Writing!


Summer reruns #1

Yep. It’s the part about summer when you are flipping through channels at night after the mosquitoes chase you inside and the air conditioner is humming and it’s really too late (or too close to bedtime) to dig into much writing. So I figured if TV shows can do it, so can I 😀

This post originally appeared in August of 2014 (Oh. My. Gawd. I didn’t realize I’ve been blogging that long!) Enjoy this blast from the past!

Orignally appeared August 17, 2014:

It’s one of the last weekends of summer, and school starts in a couple weeks. Where did the summer go? Granted, summer really didn’t get going here in MN until late June after we had torrential downpours that caused mudslides, closed many roads, and wiped out my garden TWICE. And it’s been a nice, cool summer. Love it! The temps, that is, not the fact my garden is a month behind. Still waiting for my tomatoes to hurry up and get ripe!

My vice, though, is lazy weekends. There are many summer weekends that include trips to various family gatherings including graduations, weddings, and birthdays. On the weekends we get to stay home, I have a tendency to kick back in an easy chair, whip out my computer, and write. Besides, the cleaning will be there tomorrow, right?

Part of me feels guilty for neglecting regular household chores, but I do have two teens in the house, and they are responsible for dishes, their own laundry, and cleaning bathrooms (Yippee!). Part of that guilt keeps my muse hanging in the wings, reluctant to sit down next to me for an hour or two of writing. The procrastinator in me clamps a hand over the guilt’s mouth and threatens it with bodily harm if it screams.

My inspirations during the summer include gorgeous sunsets and those quiet mornings when the mist hangs in the air. It’s humid and a little cool, but the fog curtains the trees and blankets sound. There’s a sense of awe that brings to mind a timelessness that leads my writer’s mind toward scenes that involve characters emerging from the fog on horseback or standing within a grove, that muted quiet swelling to fill their ears and hush their words. The fiery pink sunsets remind me to stop and watch, to impress in my mind the splendor of the vibrant colors so I can recall them later.

What inspires you during the summer? Is it gardens of flowers? A sole wildflower in the shadows of trees? The sounds of crickets or frogs at night? The smell of freshly-cut grass or hay? The buzz of cicadas? The sweat on a glass of homemade lemonade or the slow drip of ice cream down a cone? Take ten minutes and describe what you sense in the summer at one of your favorite places. It doesn’t have to be a scene, just pick a place on the beach or at a fair or on a walking trail and describe the sound of the waves or the smell of cotton candy and caramel corn.

Gotta go. My muse is waiting and his coffee mug is empty!