Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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It's over! Now for my next trick #amwriting #nanowrimo

Whew! I did it. Managed 50k words in 30 days. Uff-da!

And of course, the week fight after NaNo, my schedule was … yeesh. Needless to say, I haven’t written a word for a week. Three evenings were filled with subbing at the library or our Sisters in Crime chapter year-end potluck. It’s all fun, but not conducive to writing much.

Just when I thought I could finally get back into my treadmill routine before an hour-plus writing session, the migraine hit. Double ugh. And this time it carried over for a second day because apparently it didn’t have enough fun the first day. Sigh. Even now it’s still jabbing me. I don’t get them often, but when I do, I can’t write. (For those who suffer with chronic migraines, I am in awe that you can carry on with everyday stuff when they hit. Especially if you can also write when your head is waging war within. Seriously.)

Needless to say, I haven’t written anything this week until now. Next week is finals week, so I have my empty nest for one more weekend before the kids are home for semester break.

How far did I get on my WIP? Not quite finished, but I’m at a point where the scenes should flow from brain to keyboard pretty well. Not quite to the climax, but close. If all goes well, I should be finished with the draft of Book 2 by, hmm, the end of next week.

To all my fellow NaNo-ers, congratulations! Whether you managed 50k words or more, or less, you have that many more words now than you did when you started. High five!

I’m still way behind on reading blogs, etc, so don’t be surprised if I finally get to the post you wrote two weeks ago. Or three. I’m also way behind on a lot of other stuff. I keep looking at my list hoping it’s getting shorter.

Not so much. In fact, I think my list just gained another three items. Dammit.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and managed to travel safely despite the winter storm. Nothing like a wham! Bam! Here I am! arrival of winter on a holiday weekend. So glad I couch-shop on Black Friday, aka the weekend all the die-hard shopping people brave crappy weather to just miss the best deals on the hugely-discounted items any store has, because they only have, like, three of them in stock. Anywhere.

I’m eager for the solstice. At least then the days will start getting longer again (yes, I know, still 24 hours in a day, but more of that time will be light.)

Okay, off to keep up the writing habit I redeveloped over NaNo. Stay safe, keep writing!


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Hometowns and history #amwriting #Englishteachers

“Just come back later,” I tell my Muse, who is wearing a look of concern. Then again, he had that same look last night when I finally returned home from my author event. “I’ll make up the word count this weekend. Promise.”

My Muse crosses his arms over his broad chest and taps a foot. “You are supposed to be writing, love. You didn’t write anything yesterday.”

“I know, I know. I had an author event.”

“All the more reason I should be writing the post.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I’ll count these words, okay?”

He sighs. “Fine.” He waves a finger. “You will make up your word count and get ahead this weekend. Your kids are not home. No excuses.”

Except for the bathrooms that need cleaning. And the vacuuming. And …

“Julie. You need to write. Your short story has to be submitted by the end of the month.”

“I know, I know.”

Last evening I had an author event at my hometown library.

The “new” Myrtle Maybee Library in Belgrade, MN

When I was growing up, I spent a LOT of time there perusing their collection. I would ride my bike the five or six blocks (small town blocks, not city blocks) to the library at least once a week and check out enough books to last a week πŸ™‚ Despite being quite small in size, our local library had a lot of books. Then I discovered I could order books from other libraries!

Since then, the library has moved to a larger location. The new place used to be a hardware store, and is a little more than twice the size of the old place. Ah, the memories!

I saw some familiar faces and got to reminisce a bit. Since my dad sold the house last year, I haven’t had a reason to go back until now. So much has changed, but so much is still the same. I met people I haven’t seen for years, and to my pleasant surprise, I remembered their names! (You know what I mean, right? The old “I know I know you, but I can’t for the life of me remember your name” dilemma.)

The person I really wanted to see again showed up. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, was my favorite English teacher. She loved Anne McCaffery’s Pern books as much as I did. She may not remember, but I remember telling her I was going to write a book.

See, I did it! Me and Mrs. Anderson, my high school English teacher

It was a great crowd. The library scheduled my visit during the time the book club normally meets, so the book club members were there, along with a number of other locals. My old piano teacher was there; my siblings and I all took piano lessons from her. She is now teaching my nephew!

Mrs. Adrian and me. Still teaches piano to my family (my brother’s kids take lessons from her)

It was a long day, but a great day. Our former neighbor (she still lives there, we don’t) was kind enough to take pictures for me (thank you, Kathy!). There is something nostalgic, and somehow comforting, about going back to the place where you grew up (provided you had good experiences there, of course). I met my dad at the local cafe, but I had to smile when he called it by the name it had way back when we first moved to town. Since then, it changed names at least once, and is now a Mexican restaurant with a nice supper crowd.

Okay, back to my NaNo writing. I missed my word counts this week, but it was a busy week, with my Sisters in Crime meeting and a day of subbing at the library, plus the author event. No kids home this weekend, so I’m planning to hit it hard to catch up and give myself a bit of a buffer. We’ll see how that works out πŸ˜€

Have a productive writing weekend!


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Na-no-na-no-na-no-na-no-WriMo! #amwriting #nanowrimo

Holy earworm, Batman! It’s our theme song.

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Very funny.”

My Muse raises an eyebrow, adding to his roguish appeal, as if his cream-colored fisherman’s sweater, worn-well jeans, and five o’clock shadow wasn’t enough. “I was thinking campy.”

I have to add another eye roll, because what else do you do? “Har, har. Just write the post, please.”

He leans back in my office chair, fingers laced over his lean middle. “Relax, love. This isn’t my first post, and I suspect won’t be my last. How many words have you written today?”

Erm, yeah. About that. “I’m not quite at my target for today yet.”

“And why not?”

Damn. “I’m trying.”

“Not hard enough, obviously. This is the first day, love. You have to get your ass in gear if you’re going to hit fifty thousand words.”

“I know. I know. It’s only the first day.”

He leans forward, rests his crossed arms on my desk, and focuses his sharp blue eyes on me. “I’m writing your post. Your job is butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.”

I flip the leg rest out on my recliner and adjust my laptop. “I’m almost there. I’ll hit my daily goal today.”

“What about tomorrow’s goal? You have a local author fair tomorrow.”

“I know, I know.”

“And you need to turn in the next chunk of pages to your writing teacher, right?” He shakes his head. “I can only do so much, love. Do I need to bring Grumpy back for a month?”

Oh, gawd. “No. Don’t you dare. I’ve got my plan. It’ll come together.”

My Muse offers a wry smile. “It better.”

I open my mouth, then snap it shut before I blurt out the inevitable ‘or else what?’.

He chuckles.

“What?”

His crooked grin hits me like a Taser shot. Not sure whether that’s good or bad. “Get back to work.”

“Don’t forget Zoey.”

“Not my first post, love. It’s under control.”


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Don’t say it’s Snow #minnesota #amwriting #winter

snow2

It is. The four-letter S word. NOOOOO! It’s too early! It’s only almost the middle of October.

Then again, we will miss out on the BLIZZARD hanging out in North Dakota. Whew!

So not ready for this. I’m still trying to enjoy the fall colors. Sigh. Then again, bonus: what a great excuse to stay inside and write! Granted, this weekend–tomorrow really–is only a taste of winter, and we get back to our regularly-scheduled autumn next week. Cooler than average, but no snow.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the garden; I’ll try to get it once the weather clears up in a couple days. The only things really left are the kale and the brussels sprouts. I’m not going to cover the peppers or zucchini. They will fall to the cold.

I’ve got one more unit left to finish for my class. I get to write a query and synopsis for my WIP. However, I’m going to finish the draft first. Translated: put off writing the query and synopsis as long as possible. πŸ˜€

And for those preparing for NaNo this year, I’ll see ya there! (buddy up if you want: my NaNo handle is Aislinge) Depending on how far I get with the draft for Book 2, aka my WIP, aka my class project, I’ll either keep working on that, or start drafting–again–another project I keep thinking about. And I’m going to squeeze in a short story somewhere in there. Our local Sisters in Crime chapter is putting an anthology together again this year. Deadline for submission is December 1. Whether my story will get chosen or not, who knows, but it’d be great if it was.

Another short post this week. Somehow I always feel like I’m trying to keep up or catch up. It’s tough enough to keep up with things around a full-time job, garden stuff (except that’s pretty much done now), and house upkeep (read: the house is sooo not clean). Crossing my fingers any sort of cold or flu stays far away.

Some of my writer friends have been under the weather lately. I know I can’t write or work on the computer when I’m sick, so I tend to watch TV, or maybe read. TV-wise, I will often pull out a How to Train your Dragon movie or a Star Wars movie. What about you? What do you do besides sleep when you’re sick?

Happy Writing and may Winter stay away for another month!

zoey2

Bah! Wake me when it’s over.


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October Already?

nature-2609978_640

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I’m still trying to figure out where September went. Or maybe I just blinked and it vanished. The trees are starting to wear their colors in our area. I was driving home from work and noticed the hills along the river have more yellow in the green now. There are a few brilliant pinks around, but more of the deeper magentas.

It’s my favorite part of autumn. The colors, fewer bugs, the garden is pretty much finished, and there’s something about the apples, pumpkins, and squash that are ready about now. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the cooler weather; a great excuse to find more “cozy”. You know, hot cider, flannel, fireplaces lit, curling up with a good book, but no snow. Not yet (except way up in northern MN, where they got a dusting earlier this week).

I haven’t grown pumpkins for a few years, but I might have to next year; I’m thinking it’s past time to make pumpkin bread. I’m not one for pumpkin pie, but I have a good recipe for pumpkin bread. And apple bread, but it’s the first part of the harvest, so I’m not tired of apples yet. I just bought my first tote bag (about a peck) of Honeycrisps. There’s a new variety out now, developed, like the Honeycrisp, by the University of MN: First Kiss. It’s the first year it’s available, so there aren’t many around yet, but I’m interested in trying it.

Yes, I’m already thinking about next year’s garden, and I know what I’m not going to plant: zucchini. Nope. No zucchini. I cooked up zucchini only once this year. I’m debating about cucumbers as well. But the chickens love cucumbers …

Saturday I’m off to another book festival, so Sunday is slated for writing. I still have a homework assignment I promised my writing teacher I would finish by Monday. And all those blog posts I’m behind on. So my word for the weekend is: FOCUS.

Short post this week, so I can practice FOCUSING. On the bright side, NaNoWriMo is coming up in a month. I always take the opportunity to reset the habit of writing every day. Which means, FOCUSING.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and keep writing!

zoeyprowl

On the prowl


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Giving her the heebie-jeebies #amwriting #mystery

The unit I’m working on in my writing class has to do with setting, how it can become more than just a backdrop or stage for the story. The words you use to describe the setting also contribute to the atmosphere or “feel” of the story. Think Edgar Allan Poe. When you read his stuff, notice the descriptive words he uses. For example, here are the first few sentences of “The Fall of the House of Usher”:

Β DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was –but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.

No sunshine and rainbows and unicorns there. Just that little bit will call clouds to rain on a parade. For comparison, I use the first page of Where the Crawdads Sing, which I’m almost finished with. I like it, but it’s a bit slow. The descriptions are really some of the best parts of the book. Delia Owens makes the marsh a character in the story:

capture-where-the-crawdads-sing

There is so much atmosphere here that the reader has the sense of standing out in the marsh and experiencing some sort of transcendence. And notice the personification of the swamp. The setting should get co-star billing in this.

Back to my homework. My current assignment (*aside to my writing teacher*Β yes, I am working on it πŸ˜€ ) is to take a character and put them into a setting that makes them uncomfortable. And they can’t leave the setting during the scene.

See where the heebie-jeebies comes in? Part of the task is to decide whether to use a scene that’s already written, or write a new scene. I haven’t quite hit the part of the story where this comes into play.

It’s one thing to put a character into someplace unfamiliar; that’s almost like cheating, because any unfamiliar place can make a person uncomfortable. Discomfort can range anywhere from that lost feeling one can get in a huge parking ramp at the airport to the goose-pimply spooky feeling when you wander into an old house at night to get out of the rain … and the door slams shut behind you (and yes, for all those Supernatural fans, I’m counting the days until the last season premiere!).

But that’s too easy, right? Okay, how about the ol’ “fish out of water” trick? Take a yuppie and drop her in the woods miles from civilization (and you know she’s wearing heels, because they always do), or take the farm-raised nature kid and make them find their way through Times Square at rush hour.

Eh, still too easy. The point of taking the class, besides to get my butt in gear on Book 2, is to exercise my author muscles and build a great story. So, if anyone has read my book, you know that my main character had a stalker about six years before the book starts. She’s worked hard to overcome that visceral fear of being followed, and she’s conquered that fear.

Or has she? *rubs hands together and cackles*. So I will put her in a place where she learned to be comfortable again once her stalker was put in prison. And make sure she thinks someone is following her. That’ll make her squirm.

Think about a place you are comfortable, like the library, or the gym, or the coffee shop. Now, think about being in that place when a massive storm moves in, and there’s a weird creepy guy who has been staring at you for the past hour. The lights go out! Thunder crashes. Something brushes against you. In the next flash of lightning the creepy guy isn’t where he was–he’s gone. And you can’t leave. Mwahahahahaha!

Yes, this example is dripping with cliche, and I now have a scary movie script started πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ It’s all about using the setting to affect the character in a way that bumps up the tension in the story.

I’ll be trying to catch up on reading blogs and doing my homework this weekend. Hope you get some writing time in, too!

zoey chair

Hey, you’re not taking my picture, are you?


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All the stage is a kitchen #amwriting

“You know, love, I try to be inspiring.” My Muse leans over my shoulder, so close I can smell evergreen and fresh-cut wood with a touch of cinnamon. “But I have to tell you that’s a stupid title for your post.”

“Gee, thanks. I don’t hear you coming up with a better one.” Or a post subject for that matter. I lean back in my office chair with a bit of difficulty since he’s standing right behind me, all six-foot two inches of his toned physique. With his red and black flannel shirt rolled halfway up his forearms and worn-well jeans, I envision him more inclined to throw a steak or two on the barbie instead of shrimp. Hell, forget the barbie; just cook ’em over a campfire.

Image by Tommy_Rau from Pixabay

He plants a hand on the back of my chair and bends closer, giving me a view of the individual hairs of his stubble, now more ten o’clock shadow than five o’clock, covering his square jaw and …

“Really, love? That is so cliche.”

“Which part? The ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’ part or the rugged outdoorsman cooking steak over fire part?” I can feel the heat from his skin. I should probably open a window; it’s getting a little warm in here. “I figure you’re Australian, so shrimp.” It goes with the Aussie surfer image. Then again, the roguish look works for him. Definitely works for him.

He turns to face me and rests a hip on my desk. “We are not talking about shrimp, love. Or steak. We are talking about the scene in your WIP. Focus.”

Fine. “Okay, so the thing is everyone is over at the mentor’s house. Well, his widow’s house. They went over there yesterday after the memorial service, had coffee and caught up on a few things. Some conflict between a couple characters. Another character comes and argues with the son-in-law. A little foreshadowing. The scene takes place in the kitchen slash dining area, of course, because that’s where everyone gathers.”

“Sounds logical. What’s the problem?”

“Well, my other main character arrives at the house the next morning, and of course that’s another meet and greet, also in the kitchen area, because that’s where you do things like that. Then the police chief arrives to share some information, and of course that all takes place in the kitchen, too.”

“So, you’re saying it’s boring.”

“Not boring, but shouldn’t there be some change of scenery? I mean, do readers want to see two or three scenes in a row all in the kitchen slash dining area?”

“Are there any scenes in that sequence that are not in the kitchen area?”

“Well, yeah. The main character goes to the garage, where the mentor died, to look over the scene.” Everything is done indoors, in the same-ish space. “But everyone is at the house. In the house. And they are all sitting around the table drinking coffee.” Because that’s what people do.

“Hmm.” He scratches at his stubble. “What about a patio in the backyard?”

“It’s just before Memorial Day weekend in northern Minnesota. In the morning. It’s chilly outside.” I review the layout of the house in my head. “What if they go into the living room to discuss the chief’s news? Would that work?”

“Sure, it will work,” he says, “but will it be enough is the question, right? All you can do is write it and see how it reads.”

“C’mon, you’re my Muse. Help me out, here. Give me some other ideas.”

“Why are they sitting around the table? What are they talking about? Is it a matter of the characters getting information or the reader?”

“Both. I’m just thinking about how this stuff works in real life. That’s what you do. Someone dies, everyone goes back to the house and talks about stuff because weddings and funerals are when people reunite. You talk about stuff at the table …”

Hold on. Duh. “The first day, after the memorial, it’s later, early evening I suppose, when they get back to the house. They could hang out on the patio then. It’s late May, so it stays light out later.” It would still be cool out, but that might be where the mentor and his wife used to sit and enjoy the flowers. That adds an emotional connection.

My Muse wears a self-satisfied grin. “See, love, I knew you’d figure it out.”

This is how a lot of my scene work goes, though. I write it, it’s not quite right, then I take a walk and talk things through until something clicks. It’s a good thing we’re out in the country, or someone might call those nice young men in their clean white coats πŸ˜€

After all the rain this week, I might venture into the garden later, but for now, I have some (lots of!) writing to do. Enjoy your weekend!