Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Back in the flow — sort of #amwriting

Last weekend’s writing conference was a blast, even if it was busy for me, with panels and presentations and one-on-one meetings with other writers. As an introvert, that sort of event, even if it is a wonderful meeting of writers doing writerly things and talking everything writing, is draining. On the other side of it, though, is the sheer amount of creative energy that coalesces at these events. I think it has a lot to do with all those muses getting together. It’s like a muse convention.

In any case, that creative energy has clung to me, and I have started writing again. Nothing major, but it’s a start. Right now I’m writing longhand, because I think that encourages the process somehow. And I can feel a sort of relief as I’m writing again. It’s like I get anxious when I don’t write for too long.

Then again, maybe that anxiety has to do with the blizzard we had this week, with around 5 inches of heavy wet snow. And damn it, the grass was just starting to turn green and the trees are starting to bud. Ugh. And now it melts. So, three inches of slushy snow + gravel driveway = almost impassable even with 4WD. I hope things dry out a bit by the time I go back to work on Monday.

In the meantime, I have the weekend slated for Easter entertaining preparation (read: spring cleaning). Nothing like the thought of relatives coming over to kick off a frenzy of cobweb chasing and dust bunny wrangling. But what better way to put off cleaning than to sit down and write?

I open the door to my writing office and discover the light is already on. And guess who is chilling behind my desk?

“It’s about time, love. I thought you would be a bit more industrious after the conference.” My Muse pulls his feet off my desk and exits my chair, sweeping an arm in its direction. “I warmed it up for you.” The smirk on his face tells me he probably did more than warm it up. I’d better check for whoopi cushions or tacks.

“Would I do that to you?” He sits on a corner of the desk, one leg dangling. His dark denim jeans, white t-shirt, and flannel shirt in the traditional red and black checkerboard pattern, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, makes me wonder what he’s up to. It’s like he’s preparing for a wilderness tour. Not that I’m complaining. Nope. Not complaining about the rugged look at all. I should be thankful there is no fedora or bullwhip in sight.

“Really, love? Why would I be up to anything but nurturing your creativity?” His crooked smile tells me I’m more right than I hoped.

“Uh-huh. Like you and all those other muses at the conference didn’t swap ‘how to get your writer’s butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard’ stories? I’m sure you have a few new ideas.”

“I do. But I won’t use them unless I have to. You seem to be getting your stride back. Good job.”

“Don’t get too excited. You know I have to get ready for Easter.”

“Yes, but you’re writing again. And you set yourself up to be accountable with your project.”

What I suspect he didn’t say was something about being disappointed that being accountable to him isn’t enough. “You know, you are really good at your job. It’s just … I need someone who can help me work through the process again.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been helping writers work through the process?”

Honestly, I’m afraid to ask. With my luck he probably worked with Dante. Probably gave the man the idea for the circles of Hell. “No, but I’m good with that. Not knowing. I’ll be diving in to that after Easter. Promise.”

He studies me with those blue eyes of his. The room is getting warmer. I swear it is. His eyes narrow. “Good. I’m going to hold you to that, love.”

Ahh, yeah. O-kay. Anyway …

This weekend focusing on a much-needed, long-delayed bout of spring cleaning. Despite the three inches of rapidly-melting slush outside. Ick. Just when everything had finally dried out, we get this. Winter, you made your point, now go on vacation until, like, Christmas. Okay, maybe Thanksgiving. Just go away.

Have a wonderful writing week!

 

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Another awesome conference! #UWWriters #writingcommunity #amwriting

30th-writers-institute-email

Whew! What a weekend! I’m here in Mad City, Wisconsin for the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute. The conference has gotten so popular that it now runs from Thursday morning through Sunday noon. And there is plenty of great stuff to go around. First, though, a well-deserved round of applause to Laurie Scheer and her team of tireless minions–er, assistants who help organize and run this conference.

(yes, you can say it: Julie takes lousy pictures.)

Laurie Scheer 2019 cr

Laurie Scheer welcomes writers to the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute

One of the keynote speakers this year was Jane Friedman, who spoke about writing for love and money, and about the myth of the “starving artist”. She shared the stories of various artists who managed to combine their creativity and business models into successful careers, such as Jim Henson and Alain de Botton. The key to success: use creativity to find more readers, because as more people demand your work, the more your writing (business) will grow.

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

 

The following day Jennie Nash was our keynote speaker. She shared three reasons authors give for writing a book. Writing a book has a high emotional cost, and low ROI (return on investment), so every author she and her team work with over at Author Accelerator are presented with the question: Why write a book? The answers boil down to these: to find and claim your voice (which may have been suppressed in the past), to influence other people or make an impact, or to write a book before reaching those pearly gates. And ultimately, “writers gotta write”. Find the reason that speaks to you and tap into that energy.

Jennie nash

Jennie Nash

So many great sessions, so little time. I got to the conference on Thursday and caught three sessions. One was about a digital brand cheat sheet, presented by a high-energy social media influencer. She showed us the potential of social media to reach far beyond your family and friends.

Another session explained how bookstores–at least independent ones–go about decided what books to stock, and the best ways for writers to succeed in getting books on their shelves. It comes down to Fit–is your book a fit for that store, Timing–is the store ready to pull in new books, and Approach–suggestions on how to approach a bookstore about carrying your book and the things to accomplish beforehand (like ISBN numbers and early reviews).

An agent shared the biggest pitfalls writers make while revising their stories, starting with the familiar “starting the story in the wrong place.” Other things to watch for include characters that are not fully formed on the page, a lack of a physical sense of setting, raising stakes, and not following through on your promise to the reader (what is the story you are setting in motion). These things can be spotted by critique partners and beta readers, so the moral of the story: you can’t do it all on your own.

I popped into a session about author websites, which gave a lot of the same information Dan Blank did in his author website video series (check out his WeGrowMedia site and sign up for his newsletter. Really. If nothing else, his kids are cute 😀 ). Another session listed ways to “bring back the thrill” of your writing; making it fun again. The ten points included giving yourself easy goals and rewards for your accomplishments (and yes, a piece of good chocolate or a latte counts 😀 ), playing with your reader by inserting inside jokes (case in point: R. R. Campbell used the names of the universities in his books for the jokes, and no, I’m not going to tell you–mwahahahaha), listening to your characters and what they want to do, and surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities and encourage you. Finally, remember you are competing against no one–you are the only one who can tell your story.

Good stuff. I participated on a panel about writing books in a busy life, where we shared our own strategies and offered ideas on how other writers could carve out that time to write. A number of attendees found me later to express their appreciation for the panel, because it gave them some direction on how they could overcome the excuses of not having time to write. And yes, I learned a few things myself. I’m sure my Muse will remind me the next time I complain. 😀

I presented two sessions, one on “Setting as a Character”, which had a full room. I hope the writers got something out of the session. It was my first of the conference, and somehow I ended up with a lot of time left over. Hmm. My second session, about point of view, was much less attended, but one of the other sessions about outlining was very popular (I know it was, because some writers spoke to me before the session about wanting to sit in, but they also wanted to sit in on the outlining session).

The highlight of my experience, though–besides getting to see some of my Writing Sisters–was the Success Panel, where authors who have utilized the WI or Write-by-the-Lake or other writing programs from UW-Continuing Studies are now newly-published or have a new book out. Check us out.

success panel full_cr

Success Panel 2019

The closing ceremony is Sunday, when we wrap up the conference. The energy generated by so many writers and creative people infuses the atmosphere here. It always amazes me how wonderful the writing community is. We try to help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. And every year I encounter writers who are attending for the first time, and see their wonder at these welcoming arms.

There is a reason the Writers’ Institute is listed as one of the top writing conferences in the country. And every year I have to agree. It has once again recharged my creative energies and given me lots of ideas on how to approach aspects of my journey as a published author, including wielding social media tools and focusing on “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”.

If you have a writing conference on your wish list, take a look at this one for next year. You won’t be disappointed!

zoey1


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No rest for the writer #amwriting #writers

FIRST order of business: A huge hearty THANK YOU to everyone who hosted me for my book release blog tour! You were all great, and busy–holy cow, I think there were three blog tours running at the same time. Bravo and thank you to all those who stopped by mine and the other tours!

Woo-hoo! Finally the weekend! Kids are at school, the weather is spring-like, and I can relax and unwind from–

“A-hem.”

Damn. He’s behind me, isn’t he. Good thing I decided not to do my version of the Snoopy dance.

“Like I haven’t seen it before, love. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.”

Well, now I don’t want to do it. I turn. Sure enough, my Muse is giving me the “are you quite finished” look. “What?”

He leans against the desk in my writing office, all rugged eye candy, especially with those fine-fitting jeans and his burgundy henley, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. He crosses those sinewy arms, which just pulls my gaze to his broad chest.

“You’re not usually so blatant about that, love.”

Damn again. I force myself to focus on his face, with the dimple in his chin and that bare shadow from five o’clock. And those blue eyes …

“Hey,” he barks as he snaps his fingers. “Focus.”

I shake my head to shuffle my thoughts. That was weird.

“Not really.”

“Would you stop that?” I’d feel better if he couldn’t read all my thoughts. Especially those thoughts.

He chuckles, and the room warms. Or maybe it’s just me. “I’m your Muse, love. And it’s flattering.” He raises a finger. “But you need to focus. You have stuff to do before you leave next week.”

“I know. I know. I just finished the blog tour. I think it went pretty well.” Now to catch up on all those other blogs I didn’t get to. Not sure I’ll ever catch up at this rate. “Speaking of, I hope you and Mr. E got your pub crawling done for a while.” I have to get moving on Book 2. For the eighth time.

He smiles that crooked smile that makes the room get even warmer. “You have other priorities this week. Sounds like it’s going to be a grand gathering this year.”

30th-writers-institute-email

April 4-7   Register now, because it’ll be a blast!

Yes! I can’t wait! There is something about being around all those other writers at the conference that stirs up creative energy.

“And you need to get your presentations put together.”

Um. Yeah. “You really know how to crash a weekend vibe.” At least he didn’t remind me of …

“You have cleaning on your list.” He holds up a piece of paper–where did he snag my list from? “Oh, and that can’t wait.” He ticks off an item. “This can wait, but you better do this one this weekend.”

“Where the hell did you get my list? And which one?”

“The dreaded ‘clean the refrigerator’ one.” He sets the list on the desk beside him. “So, can we get the presentations done tomorrow? Then you have the whole next day to clean.”

Oh joy.

This year will be a busy one at the Writers’ Institute, now that I have a real book I can sell at the book sale. And two presentations. And two panels. So, I’ll be getting further behind in my quest to catch up on reading blogs. Next week’s post will go live a day later than usual so I can get all the good stuff in from the big days at the conference. And it’s all good stuff 😀

Enjoy your weekend!

zoey chair

Does this chair make me look fat?

 


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Busy … But at least it’s SPRING! #amreading #mystery #newrelease

Celebrating!

It’s been a busy week+ since my book release. Whew! And bonus: I got my books the day some of my readers (the ones who pre-ordered) got their books. There is something about holding the book in your hand to make it real.

Then there’s the whole “deer in the headlights” thing when the first person asks you to sign their copy of your book. First it’s: OMG, seriously? Then it’s: What the hell am I supposed to write?

And my awesome blog release tour hosts have helped spread the word since last week. If you haven’t stopped by their sites, here’s the list again:

March 13: D. L. Finn
March 18: Betsy Kerekes
March 19: Staci Troilo Audiobook Release Day!
March 21: Joan Hall
March 25: Jacqui Murray
March 27: Mae Clair

I still stare at my book in a state of near-disbelief. It’s been a bit scary, because as an introvert, I’ve always tried to stay in the wings. It’s much quieter there. The problem with that, though, is it doesn’t encourage people to buy your books, which is kind of the point.

It’s real!

“Congratulations, love.”

I start to turn, but my Muse stops me. Instead he picks up a book as he drops an arm around my shoulders and pulls me into him. Today he smells like rain with a trace of earthy loam. Spring.

“It looks good, love.”

“Thanks. People seem to like it.”

He gives me a squeeze before letting me go. “And they should. It took you long enough.”

Do I detect a hint of scolding in his voice? “Hey, there are writers out there whose first book took twice as long as mine did.”

He sets the book back in the box with the others. “Uh-huh. There are also a lot of writers out there whose first book took half the time.”

“Your point?”

His eyes narrow. “Your second book better not take as long as this one did.”

I manage–barely–to avoid rolling my eyes. “I know, I know. And you know I’ve been trying to write Book 2 ever since I signed the contract with my publisher.” Seven rough drafts so far. Seven! I’m working on the timeline again. I need to start rough draft number 8. “But you know I also have other stuff to do in the next month.” Not the least of which is spring cleaning. Ugh. We host Easter for my husband’s side of the family. And taxes. And I need to finalize my session handouts for the upcoming Writers’ Institute.

There is still time to register! Click here!

My Muse rests a hip on my desk, arms crossed. “Are you going to work with me more this time?”

“Are you going to stick around instead of jaunting off to who-knows-where?” I counter.

“Are you going to sit your ass down behind the keyboard and write?” he counter-counters. “I’ve been here, love, but I can only stir up the creative energies for you. You have to write it.”

I can’t hold back this time. I roll my eyes. “Yes. I have been sitting …”

He waves a finger, cutting me off. “No. I mean, sitting behind the keyboard, no distractions. You have to re-establish your writing spot. You know it. I insist on it.” He stands, towers over me. “Got it?

“Yes. I’ve got it.”

He’s right, and since I haven’t done anything to set up my son’s room as a writing office yet, I’ll have to go back to my old spot.

Busy schedule coming up. I know there are a few other blog release tours going on, and I’m trying to keep up with them; I apologize that I’m so far behind. I’ve also got a few reviews to write, and some other promo stuff to experiment with.

And SPRING! Woo-hoo! Crossing my fingers we don’t have any late-season snowstorms like we did last year. This year looks promising, except for all the flooding. We are fine where we’re at, and I can get to work without a problem, so it’s good. I should start some kale and maybe a few tomatoes and peppers this weekend, so they have time to get big enough for the garden. I’ll keep you posted.

Have a wonderful weekend!


What? I can sit here.


61 Comments

It’s HERE! #mystery #aviation #amreading #newbook #releaseday

Trade Paperback and Ebook (Camel Press, 2019)

Happy Release Day!

Join me in welcoming my debut novel into the world!

Sierra Bauer, aircraft mechanic, struggled against personal tragedy to reclaim control of her life and her aviation career, but when she discovers a frozen body in her inspection plane, she must prove her innocence and uncover the key to exposing a deadly aviation conspiracy before she becomes the next casualty.

It has been a long couple of years, from the time I signed the contract with my publisher to today. And before that, a few years of writing, revising, and revising some more.

Whew!

Follow me over the next couple of weeks as I tour through the blogs of some generous hosts. This writing community of ours is incredible, with writers supporting and encouraging each other. I want to extend my sincere gratitude to those who are letting me use their blog for a day to promote my book. THANK YOU!

Visit these blogs on the dates listed to learn more about Murder in Plane Sight :

March 13: D. L. Finn
March 18: Betsy Kerekes
March 19: Staci Troilo Audiobook Release Day!
March 21: Joan Hall
March 25: Jacqui Murray
March 27: Mae Clair

Order at     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     IndieBound


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So close now #mystery #aviation #release #amreading

4Paperback-Book-T 96 dpi

The countdown continues! I’m both excited and terrified at the prospect of my first book going out into the world. The inevitable insecurities are careening through my mind:

  • OMG, other people will read my book!
  • Oh. My. God. Other people will read my book 😮
  • Will they like it? Will anybody like it?
  • All those people at work who already bought or will buy my book–what if they don’t like it? Will they still talk to me? (yes, I know it’s a totally unfounded fear 🙂 )
  • What if nobody likes it?
  • How am I supposed to write book 2 and market this one at the same time?
  • How do I contact bookstores to have them carry my book?
  • Where is my press kit? My publisher said they were putting one together.
  • What about a newsletter? Oh man, I should have put a newsletter together already.
  • When will I get my printed books? Will I get them by the first weekend in April for the Writers’ Institute?  *unintelligible grumbling*
  • I have to schedule author events. When? Where?
  • This is scary. What was I thinking?
  • I’ll be fine. I mean, every author has to learn the ropes, right?
  • Seriously, things will work out.
  • Damn snowstorm. A-frickin’-gain. When will it end????

Hoo-boy. I know all writers go through this with their first book. Heck, probably with every book. Deep breath. Everything will be fine.

“Relax, love.”

My Muse drops a stuffed duffel bag beside the back door to my office. His blond hair is sunbleached, a counter to the bronze of his skin. His well-worn jeans and hiking shoes don’t quite work with the muscle shirt emblazoned with a surfing gator and “Spring Break” in eye-searing orange and green. He hangs a red hoodie on the coat tree.

“Where the hell have you been?”

He flashes his crooked grin. The skin around his eyes is noticably lighter than the rest of his face. “Enjoying some sunshine.” He makes a show of opening the door once again and looking over the yard. “And sand. You know, not that cold white stuff outside.” He shuts the door. “You do realize the equinox is in two weeks.”

“Your point?” We’re supposed to get another 6-9 inches of snow this weekend. Ugh. “Don’t you have some pull with Mother Nature? I mean, you being a Muse with a capital ‘M’ and all?”

He sits on a corner of my desk. “Naw. Besides, she’s got her own agenda. Last I talked to her, she was planning, and I quote–” he makes air quotes–“‘weather experiments’.”

Gulp. “Um, why don’t you tell her she can send Spring on stage. I think Winter needs a vacation.” Although this week was the first week in over a month where it didn’t snow, like, every other day.

He combs his short hair back with his fingers and chuckles. “Yeah, well, she can be really sweet, but when she’s in a mood …” He shrugs. “Anyway. Are you ready for the release?”

“You mean besides not being able to actually hold my brand-new novel until who knows when? Oh, and no press kit yet.”

“You got your website going, though.”

“Yes! Finally! And I linked it to my blog. And my blog has a link to my website.” About flipping time, too. One would think someone who worked in IT for as long as I did would have been able to finish it sooner.

“Maybe so, but you never did a lot with web stuff. You did more basic programming and regular troubleshooting.” He loops an arm around my shoulders. “You did fine, love. Now, let’s see what kind of wine and chocolate you stocked up on. I might have to make a run.”

I have to say I’m glad he’s back, even if I’m not writing just now. I have workshop handouts to finish, and blog reading to catch up on. Sorry I’m so far behind, but I’ll catch up.

You can find the link to my website at the top of the page, or right here:  Julie’s Author Website. It’s nothing fancy; I’m taking Dan Blank’s advice about keeping it simple. I’ll have to do some tweaks once the book comes out, and make sure I add the audiobook when it comes out on March 19, one week after the book.

I’ll be hunkering down during yet another snowstorm. Then rain next week. As if the 6-9 inches over the weekend won’t be enough.

Stay tuned! Stay safe! And keep writing!

zoey1


31 Comments

The excitement is real #mystery

So, last week we got about an inch and a half of snow on Saturday, and 40-50 mile an hour winds (blizzard) on Sunday.

What does an inch and a half of snow look like after a day of blizzard winds?

Glad you asked.

snowbank
The building beyond, that you can just see over the top of the drift, is a metal pole barn we call the machine shed, because that is where the previous owners would keep farm equipment. The mound in the middle of the drift is our brush pile/burn pile. Overall, I would estimate the drift is more than 8 feet high. The distance between the grove and the silo is probably 60 feet or more.

Sooo tired of snow. On the bright side, it’s not supposed to snow again for a few days. I know; after the past month, I’m not sure I believe it either. 🙂

Promo stuff. Ugh. I did order some bookmarks and flyers/posters. They didn’t turn out too bad.

swag

Next up is my author website. I decided to leave the blog alone, and just link it to the author site (and vice versa). That way I don’t have to work the blog into the site. I have to keep reminding myself to keep it simple.

At this point I’m wondering when I’ll get a chance to write again. Seriously. But once everything is set up, it should be pretty easy to maintain. Especially if I don’t have to monkey around with the blog.

I have a workshop for my Sisters in Crime chapter to work on. It’s scheduled for Saturday, March 9, which so far is forecast to be snow-free.

Please don’t let it snow. Heck, as long as you’re at it, how about a whole week or two without snow? The solstice is three weeks away!

Daughter and I are going to see the new How to Train Your Dragon movie tonight. I don’t go out to see movies very often; I usually wait until they come out on DVD and get them from the library, but there are a select few I’ll see in the theater. Can’t wait! (Hopefully we can still get out the driveway; we got 2 1/2 inches of new fluffy snow. We should be fine as long as the winds don’t kick it around too much).

Have a great weekend, all!

zoey on chair

My chair. Seriously. Go sit somewhere else.