Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Changing direction

I move another publisher to the Pass list on the whiteboard in my writing office, transfer most of the publishers on the Active to the Inactive one per my agent, and add the latest three publishers to the Active roster before I return to my desk.

I’ve made up my mind. I close the document I’ve been staring at for the past, gads, a long while. I’ve got my first twenty pages about ready to send around to my writing sisters before our reunion, but I’ve been spinning my wheels on that story for a while now. Probably far too long.ย st-paul-saints-logo

The door to my writing office swings open. My Muse shakes his head and nudges the door closed behind him. He’s wearing a Minnesota Twins jersey with a St. Paul Saints hat, and faded jeans with a suspicious mustard-colored stain on one leg. “What are you doing, love?”

twins-logoSomehow his Australian accent clashes with the baseball theme he’s got going. “Trying to write.” I think it is mustard. “Who’d you go out to the ball game with this time?”

“Casey Jones.”

“Pfft. Yeah, right.”

He settles on the corner of my desk. I can smell the stale beer now. And there’s another stain, this one an unnatural orange only seen in artificial cheese sauces. “I mean, what are you doing?” He turns my computer towards him. “I thought you said you were writing. I don’t see any writing going on.”

“There hasn’t been any writing going on for a while now, of which you are fully aware.” I open another document, this one a small-town mystery I set aside when I decided to start the book to follow the one my agent is shopping. “So, I’m shifting gears.”

He lifts his hat, scratches disheveled hair that needs a trim, then settles the ball cap again. He stands. “C’mon.”

“What do you mean, ‘come on’?”

He sighs, waves his hand in a “follow me” gesture, and crosses the office to the back door. “Just what I said.” The view outside the windows shifts to a thick temperate forest complete with wildflowers brightening the undergrowth. “You coming?”

Sure. It’s not like I’m busy trying to write or anything. I follow my Muse through a clearing to the rock-strewn shore of a lake surrounded by the dense forest. Two Adirondack chairs are planted side-by-side in a sandy section of the shoreline out of the reach of gentle waves. There’s not enough sand to call it a nice beach, but just enough to allow wading into the water.

7a5181b6b751442d0864fa6d969db94aHe drops into one of the chairs and leans back, hands behind his head, long legs stretched out in front of him. I settle into the other chair. I’m starting to think this might be some sort of sneaky Muse trick.

“No, it’s not a trick. And trust me, love, if I wanted to be sneaky, you’d never see it coming.”

I hate it when he does that. “So glad my private thoughts are up for grabs. Stop it.”

He chuckles and offers a charming lopsided grin. “You know I won’t. You’re just too damn entertaining.”

“Glad you’re enjoying yourself,” I grumble. “Why are we out here?”

“You need to figure out what you’re going to do. You need 20 pages to send to your writing sisters. The question is, what project are you going to focus on?”

I slump back in the chair. “I’m going back to the small-town mystery.”

“But?” he prompts.

Arrgh. “But I’ve been thinking about doing some flash fiction or short stories.”

“Pick one or the other, love. Your book or shorts.”

“Other writers can work on a novel and a short story at the same time.”

He picks up a small stone and tosses it into the lake. Concentric circles ripple across the smooth surface. “Other writers who do that don’t have a full-time job, a big vegetable garden, and kids at home for the summer. Or a lack of focus.” With the last, he pokes my temple with a finger to emphasize each word. “You, on the other hand, have all of the above, with a big gold star for the last one.”

“Who did you really go to the game with? Gandhi? Sun Tzu? Jung? You’re getting a little philosophical. It’s kinda scary.”

“Would you rather have the Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip? I can still go there.”indianna-jones-hat-whip

Hmm. He looks damn good as an adventuring archaeologist.

“I heard that, love. I’m flattered.”

“Stop eavesdropping.”

“Comes with the job.” He stands, hands on hips. “Stand up.”

I consider ignoring him, but I decide to acquiesce to his request (can you tell I’ve recently watched Pirates of the Caribbean?). I stand.

He points to his face. “Look here.”

No reason to refuse that one. I comply, noting his 5 o’clock shadow.

“Focus.” He lifts a finger between us. “Right here.”

I’d much rather focus on something more interesting, like that dimple in his cheek.

“And that’s why you’re having trouble.” He grabs my shoulder and squeezes. Hard. “You will sit at your desk and write.” He pushes me ahead of him toward the office. “I’m going to block the wireless signal until you get your twenty pages figured out. No internet, no research, no email.”

“But–”

“‘But’ nothing, love. I’m trying nice but firm. And I’ve got some Moon Man and Ghirardelli chocolate for you when you’ve gotten that finished.”

“Are you bribing me?”

“Yes.”

I’ve got until next weekend to get my twenty pages dusted off and polished up before I have to send them off to the group. And my Muse is right, I’m having a hell of a time focusing lately. Maybe that was because of my uncertainty with the new project. Anyway, back to an old “new” project.

Have a great weekend, stay cool, and WRITE!


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The countdown begins

The calendar says July. Seriously? What happened to June? In a week, the summer will be half over.

If we’re into July, that means the reunion with my Writing Sisters is coming up. I can’t wait!

Wait, I’ve got to get 20 pages ready to send around before the reunion. Hoo boy.

One of my fellow bloggers asked about my writing sisters (B, has the baby arrived yet?), and I’ve mentioned them before, so I’ll give y’all a brief history of my fantabulous WS and some ideas on how you can find your own awesome writing group.

It was a dark and stormy night… Er, wait, wrong story. Give me a minute *shuffles papers* Here it is.

It was June, 2012. I’d learned (through my Writers’ Digest subscription, I think) about a writing retreat in Madison, WI, a six-and-a-half hour drive–super close when considering most writing retreats are in the Pacific Northwest, or out East, or someplace like Italy or Iceland (that one’s on my wish list ๐Ÿ˜€ ). I was at the point in my writing journey where I felt ready for something intense, like a week of writing by a lake. I’d heard wonderful things about the novel Master Class at Write-By-The-Lake, so I closed my eyes and jumped in.

There were only six slots, and the instructor had to accept you. Gulp. She did (woo-hoo!). We started slow, as people do when meeting strangers for the first time, and especially when we’re all writers, and the point of the class is to critique each other’s work so we could improve it.

We had different genres (YA, mystery, women’s historical, SF/dystopian), and had taken different journeys to get to where we were. But we clicked. And to seal the deal, one of our classmates invited us over for dinner one evening.

The Writing Sisters were born. Not with the name, not yet, but we had a bond. We had stories to share. And we had fellow writers to encourage us, critique our work, and offer ideas.

After our week was up, we kept in touch. We reunited the following spring at the Writers’ Institute in Madison. And afterward, we started our annual reunion tradition. Every year since that week of writing by the lake we’ve gotten together, even if some couldn’t make it. We’ve had sisters move away and return. We’ve adopted a new sister who fits into the group like she was in our Master Class with the rest of us.

Of the seven of us (not counting our mentor), three have published novels (two through publishing houses, one self-published), one has an agent shopping a manuscript, and three are within spitting distance of getting books published. Our beloved mentor continues to guide us, challenge us, and encourage us.

We’ve become more than a writing group. We’ve become good friends.

I promised some ideas on how you can try to find your own “writing sisters” (or brothers, or whatever). The most important step (in my opinion) is to get out of the house (yes, I know we’re all introverts, but you can do it). Go to conferences, classes, or writing retreats. Meet other writers face to face.ย Talk to them (Yes, I know, the whole introvert thing. Take a deep breath and do it anyway. They’re just as anxious about it as you are.). You can meet other writers to bond with online, but somehow meeting in person seems more “real”.

You won’t always “click” with the writers you meet. In fact, you might cross paths with some you can’t stand to be around. The important thing is to try. Be open and welcoming.

Regular writers’ groups are a good place to meet other writers, but sometimes there isn’t a group near you that “feels” comfortable. I highly recommend going to writing conferences. They are great opportunities not only to learn more about the craft, but also to spend more than an hour or two with fellow writers. Often there are critique group sign-ups with the added benefit of meeting other writers who may end up in your group.

If you can attend a writing retreat, do it. Not only for the time you can focus on actual writing, but for the time you will spend with other writers. A learning/teaching retreat, as opposed to one that offers only time and space to write, encourages you to get to know fellow writers and get a “feel” for how you get along.

At some point, you will run across other writers you can form bonds with. It might be just one or two, or it might be half a dozen. You might meet in real life at the local coffee shop, or you might never see each other in the flesh. In any case, finding one or more writers you can collaborate with, bounce ideas off of, or learn from is valuable.

Another weekend of butt-in-chair-staring-at-the-computer-screen. I think I’ve got a few things figured out, though, so I’m hoping–no, planning more productivity this weekend than I’ve had lately. Bonus: the kids are staying with my SIL until Sunday night. Woo-hoo!

Have a great weekend, and WRITE!


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A summer of distractions

Welcome to the first week of summer–though you’d never know it here in MN. Our temps are in the 70s, when usually we’ve got 80s by now (that’s Fahrenheit for those from Down Under or across the pond). And I’m not complaining. I like cooler rather than the gawd-awful heat they’re getting out west. I mean, over 110 degrees in AZ? OMG.

I’d rather complain about the mosquitos. I was out in the garden the other night (pulling weeds because, well, they seem to think they own the place), and it was like a cloud of tiny vampires. I had mosquito repellent on, plus a long-sleeved shirt, plus a net I wear over my head so I don’t have to put repellent on my face. The air around me buzzed. Ugh. And no dragonflies in sight. With such a feast, maybe the dragonflies were full ๐Ÿ™‚

*looks around the writing office* Anyone see my Muse? No? Whew. He’s been threatening to tie me to my chair so I’ll have no choice but to write. I know he’s doing his job, but I’m really having trouble getting back into my WIP. I took a mini-retreat last weekend to my dad’s, since he went to visit my sister. I got through the scene I was stuck on, now I’m stuck again. I’m thinking I need some writing sister help.

Speaking of, I’m starting to count down to our reunion–one month and change. We always have a great time, and so much creative energy!

“A-hem.”

Okay, um, he’s behind me, isn’t he? Damn, I knew if I mentioned him he’d show up. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him, he’ll go away.

“You know I won’t, love.”

Gulp. I’ll update the board. Yep, I was meaning to do that. I rearrange the active and inactive lists. My agent touched base with all the editors who have the manuscript, so there’s eight on the active list. Two of them have been unresponsive, so the inactive list has two entries.

“Now that you’re done playing around, sit down and write.”

I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I turn around. “Oh, hi. I was just thinking about you.” My Muse is rougish today, in an oddly-attractive getup of faded jeans, holey red t-shirt that probably needs to retire to the rag pile, and faded flannel shirt that might have been red and black, but now is reddish and gray. If he’s shaved in the past week, the rough stubble on his face doesn’t show it.

“What happened to Indiana Jones? Did Harrison Ford call and ask for his fedora back?”

He crosses his arms on his chest and shoots me a stern look, the one that says “don’t give me any bullshit”, a distinct lack of humor in his eyes. “Har, har. Maybe I should take a page from the Hell’s Angels instead. Would you listen to me then? Biker leathers and chains?”

Puke. Not a fan. “No, no, this is fine. I’m good with rough and outdoorsy. It is outdoorsy, right? Not ‘I lost my construction job and I’m sulking in front of the TV’. By the way, don’t do the beard thing. Not a good look for you.”

He frowns. “You’re planning on writing this weekend, right?”

“I always plan on writing on the weekends. I’ve got my cousin’s graduation today. We’ll be gone all afternoon. And if it stays dry, I’ve got a jungle of weeds to pull. It’s summer. C’mon, this happens every summer.”

“And every summer I have to bust my ass to get you to sit down and write. Your reunion isย  coming up. You have to send the first 20 pages of your WIP to your sisters in a couple weeks.”

“I think I need their help with this one. I’m not feelin’ it. There’s something missing.”

“Yeah, you at your desk, writing.” He heaves a sigh, like this is a burden he has to put up with. Come to think of it, that’s probably accurate. “Please?”

Wait. What? “Did you just say ‘please’?”

He takes another step closer and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Tell you what.” He squeezes my shoulders. “You sit down and write, and I’ll get a new bucket of ideas to toss at the brainstorming wall.”

That’ll work, I think. I’ll have an hour and a half drive to my cousin’s house and another hour and a half back today to mull over ideas. I’d include a few pics here, but I haven’t taken any new ones since it’s been so wet outside. We did let the chicks into the bigger pen now, but when I tried to take their picture, they were really shy and stayed in the coop. And I tried to get a good pic of our nightly visitor, but the lousy lighting doesn’t help. I’ll try to get a better pic and tell the story next week.

Until then, have a great weekend and WRITE!

 


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Now for something different

liebster2nd

Hiya, gang! I’ve been meaning to do this post for-ev-er, since Annika Perry over at her writing blog nominated me for a Liebster Award–um, wow, last year. *bows head in shame* I think the universe is trying to tell me something, because Mae Clair over at her site also nominated me.

Okay, okay, I’m listening. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you both for the nominations–sorry it took me so long, Annika.

Annika is across the pond, and has a wonderful site where she shares not only writing tidbits, but pictures of her travels. She just shared her walk-through of the Beth Chatto Gardens. Beautiful!

Mae also has a great site where she shares advice, writing news, and some of the research for her books (Mothman, anyone?) She’s also one of the authors over at Story Empire, where the authors post articles all about writing; lately they’ve had some great information about promotional stuff like media kits and newsletters.

For the Liebster Award, the rules are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Since both Annika and Mae nominated me, it’s only fair I answer questions from them both. So, onward!

Questions from Annika Perry:

Why did you start your blog?
Honestly, I started my blog because that’s one of the pieces of a writer’s platform. It took me a few months to really settle into it. Now I’m thinking of ways to refine it into more of an author’s website.

How do you deal with a setback at work/rejection letter etc?
I remind myself persistence is the key. I also remind myself that writing is subjective, just like any other art form. What one (or many) agents don’t like, there will be one that will love it. The trick is sticking with it long enough to find that one.

How do you celebrate a success?
Happy dance! Whoop it up! graphics-snoopy-360370 And have some really good chocolate and wine.

Whatโ€™s the one crazy activity/thing you wish youโ€™d tried but never dared?
Hang gliding. I’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to soar like birds do. Maybe some day!

Which of your posts has got the most views? Can you post a link to it
My post on rough drafts got the most views (besides my boring About page).

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Hmm. There’s a lot of places I’d like to go: Ireland and the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Scandinavia, Vancouver, I could go on ๐Ÿ˜€ I’d love to go back to Salzburg for the chocolate and Bavaria for the Alps!

What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell myself to write more, and take more writing classes sooner. And invest in Microsoft and Apple. I remember all the stock splits in the 80s and 90s; I’d be sitting pretty good by now!

What is one of your most embarrassing moment?
My best friend and I were taking a turn as DJs at a high school dance, announcing the songs as we played them (this was back before CDs and MP3s), and I mispronounced INXS (in-excess, not I-N-X-S). Over a loud speaker. I was promptly corrected by everyone on the dance floor.

Whatโ€™s your favourite drink? (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic) Craft beer, especially from New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin. Moon Man and Spotted Cow.

If you could travel into the past, which era would you go to and why?
I think it’d be interesting to go back to talk to Leonardo da Vinci. Not that those days in Europe were all that spectacular, but he’d be a cool person to talk to.

What is your most favourite (clean) joke?
You’re assuming I can remember any jokes I’ve been told! Oh, wait, here’s one: What did one cannibal say to the other cannibal after they ate a clown? Did that taste funny to you? (See what I mean? I can’t remember the good ones ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Questions from Mae Clair:

Youโ€™ve been given a working time machine. What era of history would you visit?
See my answer to Annika’s almost very same question ๐Ÿ˜‰

What is your totem animal? (Inspired by a post I recently saw on Jan Sikesโ€™ blog).
I like to think my totem animal would be a cougar: solitary, mysterious, and hangs out in the woods. Observes quietly. And it’s a cat. I’m a cat person ๐Ÿ™‚

What was the first story you wrote?
Hmm. The first one I really remember writing was for an English class. We had to write a story where you wake up one morning and look in the mirror. What do you see? I was deep into Anne McCaffery’s Pern books (and my English teacher liked her as well), so even though the assignment was for a 2-3 page story, I wrote what would now be considered a “fanfic”: I woke up as a Pernese dragon. Ten pages later, my teacher told me it was enough, I could stop.

Beach or mountains?
Oh boy. I have to choose? Tropical tourist-free, sugar-sand beach. Or log cabin in the heavily-wooded mountains near a lake. (can you tell I’ve thought about these for a while? ๐Ÿ˜€ )

What is your favorite time of year?
Fall, because of the wonderful colors. Spring because winter is over and everything is turning green again.

Name someone from history you find intriguing.
Leonardo da Vinci. Nikola Tesla. Ben Franklin.

What is your favorite fairy tale?
The Bremen Town Musicians.

When was the last time you played a game of chess?
Back when the kids were younger. I think my son was in 5th or 6th grade. He’ll be a sophomore in college this fall.

If you could travel to any city or country in the world, where would you go?
See my answer for Annika’s almost-identical question ๐Ÿ™‚

Name your favorite cartoon when you were a kid.
Loony Tunes–Bugs Bunny and the gang. I still remember the Barber of Seville routine with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. And I loved the Road Runner. And Taz. Gotta like Taz. And Marvin the Martian. And Foghorn Leghorn. And…

What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?
Dragons. The nice ones, though, not the ones that scorch everything. Nice ones like the Pernese dragons (or firelizards!). Or Toothless. 8-26-2016 10-00-50 AM

Whew! I’m done with the questions. Now for eleven random facts about me:

  1. I love Calvin and Hobbes. Every winter I think about recreating one of his snowman projects.
  2. I’m a cat person. I like dogs, but I’d much rather have a cat curl in my lap than a dog. I secretly want a Maine Coon, because they’re big, and having a bobcat or cougar for a pet is not the right thing to do with a wild animal. But it’d be soooo cool to have a pet cougar! (too big for a lap cat, though)
  3. My favorite flowers are lilacs and irises.
  4. No one will ever call me graceful. Ever. I’m clumsy.
  5. I haven’t worn dresses or skirts since I had kids, except once. My sister made me a bridesmaid in her wedding so I’d have to wear a dress.
  6. When I go for walks, I like to be able to identify plants along the way, especially flowers and weeds. I’ll take pictures of flowers, then look them up.
  7. I have a day job, but I’m also a substitute librarian for our town library.
  8. Favorite ice cream: mint chocolate chip
  9. Favorite TV show: Supernatural. It’s the one show nobody better interrupt while I’m watching, which is why we Tivo it. And Dean.
  10. Least favorite color for rooms: yellow (including orange). Every house hubs and I have ever had came with a yellow kitchen. Ugh!
  11. Caffeine- and alcohol-free cheer-me-up (besides Calvin and Hobbes): Jeff Dunham’s Spark of Insanity. The opening bit, before he pulls out the puppets. And Walter. And Peanut.

Okay, 11 questions for nominees (and I’m taking some from Mae’s and Annika’s nominators):

  1. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it?
  2. Favorite TV show?
  3. What is one of your pet peeves?
  4. Do you have a favorite author? Who and which of their books is your favorite?
  5. Do you read books only once, or more than once?
  6. If you won the lottery, what is the very first thing you would spend money on?
  7. What was the best advice a writing mentor or teacher ever gave you?
  8. Did you play any sports in high school? If so, which ones?
  9. You’re going to a deserted island for a month. What three things will you take?
  10. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
  11. What is the most recent movie you’ve seen?

Okay, now for nominees. I’ll just toss out a few:

Betsy Kerekes at parentingisfunny

Diane at ladieswholunchreviews

Michelle Cook at puttingmyfeetinthedirt

Jacqui Murray at worddreams

Marquessa Matthews at simplymarquessa

There are so many great writer blogs out there, it’s just too hard to make a short list. Get out there. Explore!

Next week I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled program. Have a great weekend!


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Hello, Summer

Last weekend was Memorial Day in the U.S., the unofficial kickoff to summer and all the vacations, hot weather, outdoor recreation, garden distractions, and bugs that go with it.

You heard that right, I said bugs. As in ticks, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and every other six- or eight-legged creepazoid that likes to be a pest (yes, I know the eight-legged varieties are technically not bugs, but they bug me. You know, ticks. Spiders are okay as long as they stay outside where they belong.) They are probably my least favorite part of summer.

Good insects, like bees and butterflies, I’m okay with because they are pretty, have an important job (pollination), and they don’t bug me (except for the sulfurs and their white counterparts, because they are responsible for the cabbage loopers and cabbage worms that munch on my Brussels sprouts and kale).

Ugh. Can’t do anything about bugs except encourage bats and birds to eat as much as they can. Oh, and can’t forget the predatory bugs, like dragonflies. They. Are. Awesome. Mostly because they have “dragon” in their name, but also because they eat mosquitoes from birth to death. And they’re pretty. And “dragon” ๐Ÿ˜€

red-dragonfly-1364459 Anyway, I thought, since, you know, summer, I’d post an update on my usual summer stuff. I know, boring, right? Well, iffin ya don’t like it, trust I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled writing stuff next week (and I won’t mention the Muse standing behind me, bullwhip in hand and Indiana Jones fedora on his head. Nope, I won’t.).

I managed to get my garden in a few weekends ago, before I took my writing retreats to my dad’s house. Incidentally, my retreat last weekend, when I was going to go all in on the second draft of my WIP, was cut short due to Dad’s return much sooner than he had last year. Sooo, I lost two days of writing in peace, but I got to hear about his trip, which wasn’t as enjoyable as in past years due, I think, to the timing. More people around this time, so their Alaskan adventure was more crowded than they liked.

Anyway, back to gardening. Here’s a shot of it (look now, because I’ve got the weeds under control so far ๐Ÿ™‚ ):

garden1

Living out in the country is great, until natural pests start hitting all your hard work. Notice the terra cotta-colored pots–those are my Brussels sprouts, the second planting, because some effing pest chewed the first ones off. Grrr. So far, these are doing fine.

So, the little buggers decided to take out their frustrations on my pepper plants. I replanted them, and they lasted maybe a week before something chewed them off again. So, I got new plants again, but I’m going to have to put a secondary fence around them. Thank goodness the varmints (chipmunks, I suspect) don’t appear to like potatoes or onions. We’re going to put some live traps in the garden to figure out if I’m right. I suspect chipmunks, but we also have rabbits and squirrels.

And dogs. Not that they mind; they must play poker with the rabbits. Neither dog (granted, one is three-legged and can hardly chase them) seems to have any desire to chase them. I’ve got farm cats (you know, good mousers) on my wish list!

Remember my pics of asparagus? I stopped picking it when we got a couple hot days, and now the asparagus is on its way to ferning out. Here’s where it’s at:

asparagus 1 It’s branching out, and should be fully “ferned” out soon. I say “ferning” because when it’s mature, it looks feathery, like a fern. If you look, you can see an aparagus spear on the right side to compare.

And what’s summer without flowers? The lilac is long done blooming, and although I did take pics of my dad’s irises, I don’t have any at our place (though now that I think about it, I should).

The woods around our place smell wonderful this time of year because of the dame’s rocket that grows wild everywhere. It looks like wild flox, but I looked it up; I think the number of petals on the flowers is different. But they smell sooo good, like a cross between lilacs and petunias:

dames rocket1

And a close-up:
dames rocket2 And you’ve guessed it, I’m distracted by things other than writing. I’m behind on reading blogs, so don’t worry, I’m trying to catch up. I’ve got graduations to attend now that school’s out for the summer, so that’ll be my fun this weekend.

A good thing about the garden work, though, is the mental time I get, because weeding just doesn’t require a lot of thought. I figured out a crucial scene in my WIP, one that I knew I needed to add, but I just didn’t know where to put.

I had my “aha” moment while in the garden this week. After today’s jaunt to my niece’s grad party (an all-day thing because it’s a 2 1/2 hr drive there), and replanting my peppers (along with constructing an anti-chipmunk secondary fence and rigging the live traps), I’ll get back to my draft.

Hope your summer is starting off well. Some slacking on writing always happens this time of year, it seems, because this is when we like to enjoy the weather, but make time to write. I know I will, and before my Muse decides to do more than look menacing.

Happy Summer! Happy Writing!

PS: I know, I know, no pics of the chickens. They’re in the “nursery” pen right now, which isn’t good for taking pics, so I’m hoping my hubs and my son will move them into the big pen so I can get good pictures of them.


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Reflect, Regroup

I cross off two more publishers on my white board. That leaves five actively reviewing my manuscript, with another five still in radio-silence. The publisher I’m really hoping to score is still on the active list. Now to find a four-leaf clover I can wish on–wait, that’s a falling star.

I should be writing some profound post on, well, writing. I finished and revised my synopsis (whew!) and promotional plan for my agent to send off to the publisher that asked for them. A synopsis I’ve done before, but this was my first promo plan (aka marketing plan). In my promo plan I listed my audience (adult mystery readers who like a little romance, suspense, and aviation), my street team (my fan-tab-u-lous writing sisters), the usual suspects (readings/signings at local libraries, bookstores, etc), and my web presence (blog, FB author page, Goodreads, Twitter, blog tours, etc).

I realized a few things as I put the plan together. First, I need to develop my “brand”. I’m looking at the websites of authors I know and the way they’ve branded themselves. I mean, I know my brand needs to work for me as an author, not for a particular book I’ve written, so I’ll need to do some serious brainstorming. It’s just that I could be writing instead (and procrastinating on the whole “branding” thing).

Second, so much of the promo stuff depends on having an actual book to release. You know, so I’ve got cover art, a release date, something to put in my newsletter (which is another thing I need to put together, along with every other first-time-published or waiting-to-be-published novelist, it seems). Hell, a title (because you know no matter what you call the book, the publisher may change it, especially when you think you have the perfect title). So, pretty tough to jump in early without more.

Third, I need to get more involved with local mystery writer organizations like the Twin Cities chapter of Sisters In Crime, as in attend a few meetings at the very least (one meeting a month seems reasonable, but I wish it wasn’t in Minneapolis; I’m not big on city driving). In the same vein, I should probably spend some time at Once Upon a Crime, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis known for supporting local mystery writers.

There’s probably a few more places like that where I should probably start showing up, so when it’s my turn, they sorta know me. And that doesn’t include all the other venues, like libraries, other writer/reader events, B&N, etc.

Hoo boy. Again the fleeting thought: What the hell have I gotten myself into? Do I really want to do this? I mean, REALLY want to do this? Because this is a LOT of work that isn’t actually writing. Somewhere in the back of my head I knew there was a lot more to building readership than shouting out to all my FB friends (and I don’t have all that many) and blog followers. Seeing the list on paper makes it more real. And more scary.

Then I think about how much I’ve put into this journey, or how long I’ve been on this journey. I spoke with an old high school classmate this week, whom I haven’t talked to for almost 20 years (no, following on FB does not count as “talking”). We talked a little about my book (I’d asked her to beta-read for me since she’s an English teacher, but she had other things going on at the time), and she reminded me about the books I wrote in elementary school.

*head slap* Oh, yeah. That’s right. Holy crap. That’s what, a really long time ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

I have to keep going, because if I don’t, it’d be like climbing to the way top of the highest and longest slide in the world, looking down at the run, and climbing back down. Remember when you did that as a kid, got to the top of the slide, got scared, and climbed back down? Because once you jump on and let go of the ladder handles, there’s no turning back or getting off except by putting your sneakers flat against the slippery part to stop–with the possibility of tumbling head over teakettle to the bottom–and climb off.

Persistence. That’s the difference between so many writers who don’t get there, and those that do. I’m sure you know writers who have an enviable way with words, but who stopped trying or don’t try to go beyond creative fiction assignments or lovely blog posts. Then there are the writers who struggle, read every book on writing they can get, attend conferences, andย practice. They stack up enough rejections to wallpaper a room. Still, they write another book. And another.

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They keep going, because they can’t stop. Won’t stop. The writer starts getting positive responses. Agents request the full manuscript. And one day an agent sends an email critiquing the writer’s full manuscript, requests a revise and resubmit, and suggests the writer call if she wants to talk about the manuscript. And on that call the writer discusses the agent’s notes, suggests changes, and gets energized. They discuss a timetable for revisions. The agent compliments the writer on her professionalism.

The agent says she wants to rep the book.

The writer does a happy dance! Then gets to work doing the revisions the agent requested.

Hmm, I guess this post was sort of about writing after all. I spent last weekend working on my synopsis and promo plan, so this weekend is time to dig into the second draft of my WIP. Finally getting back to the things that started this whole wild ride: those stories that keep tumbling around in my head, mucking up the works until I get them out (that’s how I justify the CRS (Can’t Remember Shi*) ๐Ÿ˜€ )

For my US friends, have a wonderful, safe Memorial Day weekend.

And WRITE!


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Of Revisions and Muses

The writing office is empty.

Bloody hell. Now where’d she go? I hate this time of year. She’s too distracted by Spring–and yes, I capitalize it because it’s becoming a pain in my ass, just like my writer these days. On the whiteboard wall, I see nothing’s changed. Stands to reason since her agent returned from vacation a couple days ago.

What the … Her laptop is on her desk along with this:

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Seriously? I’ve put too much time into my author; there’s no room for another Muse.

A whoosh carries through the open back door of the office, like a giant swinging a huge bloody flyswatter. Before I get to the door, Julie steps through and combs fingers through her hair.

I lean back against her desk, arms crossed. “Where the hell have you been, love?”

An iridescent green head pokes into the office through the door behind her, red eyes locked onto me. I’ve got to deal with her Night Fury conscience; I don’t have fecking time for a whatever-the-hell kind of dragon this is. “Where did that come from? I’m not playing ‘lead muse’ to a team. I work alone.”

Julie runs a hand over its golden nose and nudges it back out the door. “Don’t worry about him,” she tells it. “He’s kinda grumpy.”

The dragon glares at me. I return the favor and add a little bit of Muse temper. It snorts and disappears back out the door. She takes over the glare, hands on her hips.

“What the hell was that for? So I took a break.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“My daughter gave it to me. It’s the first thing she’s ever brought home and said she bought especially for me, and she’s almost 17. What the hell are you so pissy about? I’ve been working on my outline.”

Uh-huh. If that’s work, I’m going to have to get the big guns out. “And what did your sister-in-law say about the manuscript?” I ask, knowing full well what her feedback was. I just want to see if Julie’s been thinking about it instead of goofing off on the competition.

Her eyes narrow. “You’re jealous.” A smile inches across her face, deeping the dimple in her cheek. “You know, you seem a little insecure for a Muse. That’s so cute.”

I ignore the heat in my cheeks and give her my sternest Muse look. “I’ve worked with you for how many years? I’m not going anywhere.” Unless she replaces me. Naw, she wouldn’t do that. Would she?

She crosses the office and pats my shoulder. “Don’t worry. That one is more suited to my fantasy stuff, and I’m writing mystery right now. And stop writing my blog posts for me.”

“If you were in here doing it, I wouldn’t have to.”

She sticks her tongue out at me. *Thhppptt* She brushes past me and settles in at her desk. “Go away until I’m done with this. I need your help with one spot my sister-in-law mentioned in the manuscript.”

“Fine. I’ll be back in an hour. I’ve got to take a walk.” I think the forest path should do it. “One hour.”

I wave. “See you in an hour. Don’t get lost.” Geez. Who knew he’d be jealous?

Anyway, now that he’s gone for a bit, I’ll finish this off. My sister-in-law finished her read-through, and loved the book. Said she’s going to read it again, in fact. Now, before you get the idea that because she’s family she’ll gush over the manuscript, I want to say there’s a reason I asked her. She’s a retired elementary school teacher and was a librarian. She knows books. She reads books. And she’s not a blood relative ๐Ÿ™‚ . She reads John Sandford (MN author), William Kent Kreuger (MN author), and Kathy Reichs.

She loved the book, yet had a few things she noticed. One (and remember my earlier post on the subject) thing: she wanted more technical details.

Yeah. The very thing my agent has been telling me to dial back because that’s probably tripping up the editors.

Why, you ask? She was married to a pilot, so she knows the airport (my book is set at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport), and the main character being an aircraft mechanic is interesting to her. And she loves the TMTI (my opinion) that Kathy Reichs has in her books.

She had some other very good suggestions, and she mentioned some of the things she really liked. And she specifically said: “This is going to be a series, right? Because it has to be a series.”

๐Ÿ˜€ Talk about warm fuzzies!

Anyway, the revision is due to my agent on Monday, so I’m looking at the things my SIL suggested. There’s one in particular I think I’ll focus on that’ll have a bigger effect on the story than some of the others.

And for those who missed flower pics last time (I don’t grow flowers intentionally unless it’s to use up seed in the garden, because weeding ๐Ÿ™‚ ), here you go:

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yellow violet

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purple violet

And, of course I have to close with Zoey, who refused to stand still or look at me when I took her picture.

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Have a great weekend, all! Next weekend I might have to get the garden started ๐Ÿ™‚