Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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It begins … Garden season 2022 #amgardening #mngarden

Picture from last year (because I haven’t taken any pics this year yet)

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional garden-planting weekend here in MN, especially since we’ve had a cool spring (hey, at least we’ve had what we can consider spring, instead of jumping right into summer 🙂 ) This year was no different, despite my hubs’ insistentence I had to get the garden in far sooner.

It’s a procedure, at least for me. I posted pics last year, so I’ll spare you this year. Granted, I don’t spend all day putting the garden in. I go out after work (or on weekends, after an early supper) because it’s started to cool down (of course, that’s often prime mosquito time, too). It ends up being about two-three hours at a time.

One of the biggest time consumers is raking grass for mulch. Yes, we have a lawn tractor, but a) the grass tends to be closer to a foot tall instead of three inches tall (no golf course lawns here, more like four-wheeling), and b) with grass that tall the mower clogs pretty easy. Bottom line, in my mind it’s faster to rake it instead of mowing super slow and stopping every fifty feet to unclog the chute. Besides, it’s exercise. And it saves gas, which is saying something these days 🙂 .

I actually started planting last night–finally. Memorial Day was “Storm Day” here, so I intentionally didn’t plant because we were due some severe weather. There were a few tornado touchdowns in MN, one even within 30 miles of us, and sheets of rain and WIND! If I’d planted anything, the stuff would have either drowned or gotten beaten up from the wind.

Then the wind. Sheesh. Laying out fabric mulch and covering it with cut grass mulch that is a couple days old is fine when the wind is light, but once it hits 10+ mph it’s kinda futile cuz the grass is dry (wet/fresh grass is heavier).

Anyway, I got the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes in. Tonight I’ll put in the rest, and rake up more mulch if I have the energy. It seems like every year I have less energy to do that stuff. And hey, I’m not that old, although sometimes it feels like it 🙂 . I remember watching Romper Room after school and Captain Kangaroo, just to give you an idea …

As for writing, slowly but surely. I’m working through the reorganization of my police procedural, but I’ll have to go back to Book 2 soon and do another run through it before I send it back to my agent.

Hope everyone is having a productive early summer/late spring!

Keep on writing!

Flashback: Nyx and Tibbers as kittens


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I’m baaack–what a con(ference)! #amwriting #lcc2022

My very first time as moderator for a panel. L to R: Me, Tori Eldridge, Margaret Mizushima, Linda L Richards, Faye Snowden. Great authors! (photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuhn (yes, I copied it from her FB post))

I flip to yet another fresh sheet in my notebook. The tough thing about a synopsis is picking out the most important points of the story–out of 300+ pages. I’ve got the inciting incident, and the climax (I think). Oh, and the midpoint reversal. So, now I need a couple more points to transition between each, right?

The back door to my writer’s office opens, letting in a crisp breeze–and a couple stray leaves. “Damn it, shut the door. It’s frickin’ cold and windy out there.” Sheesh. Would never guess we’re halfway through April by the weather.

My Muse peels off his jacket and hangs it on the coat rack. He’s wearing a fisherman’s sweater with his worn-well jeans. He exchanges his sneakers for those big fuzzy bearpaw slippers.

“Cold feet?” I ask. “Those things are kind of ridiculous, you know. They clash with that ‘just off the set of a GQ photo shoot’ thing you’ve got going.”

He tosses me a wry grin, the divot in his chin deepening. “I knew you liked my slippers.” He settles a hip on the corner of my desk. “I see you’re finally back to work.”

I lean back in my chair. “Hey, I’m finally feeling almost normal again. Nothing like getting back from a trip and getting slammed with a wicked head cold. Hell, I couldn’t see through the brain fog for two days.”

“Uh huh.” He doesn’t sound impressed.

“Just because you never get sick. Just how wild did you and the other muses get during your own convention in Albuquerque? I didn’t see you around.”

He crosses his arms on his broad, sweater-covered chest. “Our convention was great. You, on the other hand …”

“I had a great convention. I met some great authors. I have more options for blurbs. My very first panel I moderated went surprisingly well. My panel went well. I even managed to avoid making a fool of myself at the new author breakfast with my 1-minute pitch. So, yeah, it was a great convention. I even got to talk to William Kent Kreuger. Nice guy.”

“Uh-huh. And what did he tell you, love?”

“He writes every morning, even when he’s on the road.”

My Muse just stares at me with those incredible blue eyes.

“I can do that. Maybe not always in the mornings, but in the evenings. I’ve done it before. It’s how I draft all my books.”

He sighs. “You need to focus, love.”

Goes without saying. “You need to help me with my synopsis, which I haven’t worked on since I got back because head cold.”

So before I settle in to work on my synopsis, just want to toss out there if you ever get an opportunity to attend a writing or genre conference, try to do it. It’s a wonderful experience, and a great way to network.

Have a Happy Easter/Ramadan/Passover/what have you! May Spring decide to get serious and stick around for a while!

Furry belly Tibbers and Nyx


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Writerly “normal” returns? #amrevising

My year is already shaping into something that sort of seems, well, normal? Normal-ish?

Maybe what I’m saying is more along the lines of “what we used to do as authors trying to get our books out there before 2020”. So far this year, it seems less “play hermit, it’s safer” and more “yep, that’s going around, wash your hands and don’t sneeze on anyone”.

My first “live” event this year is in March, followed by a trip to Albuquerque in April for Left Coast Crime. That’s the one that shut down after the first day in San Diego back in March of 2020, just as the world as we knew it was battening down the hatches. That sucked, because even though it had been only the first day, it was fun! (And damn it, I really miss the opportunity to visit with B!)

Author and writer events are being held in person again. Yay! Not from my introverted writerly self, but from my connect-with-readers self. I suspect most of us writers would rather stay in our writer caves than be around people, but we play extrovert because we know it will help us in our writerly objective to sell more books.

Marketing is HARD, as any writer will attest to. Mostly because that’s not our “thing”. We like to write, but we don’t have the skill or the desire to spend what seems like way too much time trying to figure out how to persuade people to buy our book(s), and we usually don’t have the money to hire someone who has both time and knowledge to do it for us.

So what’s a marketing-challenged, fund-challenged author to do? This is where networking can be huge. Yes, that means connecting with other writers. Other writers know things, know people, and have had different experiences. We’re all trying to sell books. If we band together, share our knowledge and experience, maybe that will be the piece that gets us more readers and helps us sell more books.

That’s my new endeavor. The Midwest Mystery Works is a group of five mystery/thriller writers, including moi, who are experimenting with various ways to market our books. By pooling our resources and “what we’ve learned”, we’re hoping to reach the next level, whatever that might look like. We’ve just gotten started, but over the next months we’re hoping to figure out what we’re doing and get better at it. I’ll be sharing information about my fellow writers in the upcoming weeks, and in my upcoming newsletters (note to self: Get the next newsletter out!).

In the meantime, I need to finish revisions on Book 2 and get that to a couple more beta readers. Oh, and homework. Dang, I canNOT believe how many freaking ways there are to classify verbs (both regular and irregular (is that like regular and decaf?)), and verb tense, and predicates, and verb predicates. Seriously. And someone–many someones–spent what had to be YEARS figuring out how to make learning the English language even more complicated.

Uff-da! Editing technical documents is apparently not for the faint of heart, nor for those who fall asleep while studying verb mood. Mood? Really? Apparently, not only do fonts have “personality”, but verbs have moods (indicative, subjunctive, and imperitive, for those who are wondering).

Yep, really glad I never majored in English.

Then again, I might have the answer to the next Final Jeopardy because of it.

Nah.

Stay warm and safe! We don’t have any Nor’easters here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but anytime you have snowstorms and double-digit negative windchills, it’s Nature’s way of telling you it’s time to read another book–or write one!

Wake me when it’s Spring!


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New Year, new determination #amwriting #amrevising

Another new year stretches ahead. Man, last year seemed to fly. Not sure why, but I remember hearing somewhere along the way that time seems to go faster as you get older. Or more scatterbrained.

In retrospect, last year was better than 2020, despite the tenacity of the pandemic. I was able to write again, much to my and my Muse’s relief. I got to see my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion! In-person family gatherings were back on the agenda. I even got to do a couple in-person events!

One of the things I’m thankful for (in hindsight, of course!) is being restructured out of my job. Weird, huh? It forced me to look for a new job, and that led me to my current job, which is so much better than my last one (at least than the last six months of my last one). So thankful! My new job is with a great company with awesome benefits and heck, I even got a nice raise compared to my old job.

Now, it’s look-ahead time. New Year’s resolutions? Eh, I’d rather call them intentions. Or items on my yearly to-do list:

Finish Book 2: Revise according to beta reader suggestions, one more beta round, and off to my agent. Can’t wait!

Finish revising my police procedural: After I sent Book 2 off to betas, I’ve been reworking my police procedural. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned since the last time I worked on it. And I’ve let it sit long enough that I have the perspective to see what I need to cut. Answer: More than I would have two years ago.

In-person events: Of course, this all depends on the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to Left Coast Crime (Albuquerque) in April, since the event in San Diego was canceled after the first day due to the pandemic. And Bouchercon will be in Minneapolis this year! As other events come up, I’m hoping to get back to seeing readers again.

Mini-writing retreat: I came close to doing it last year, except I had all that job-hunting to do. This year, I’m planning to head off to a local, erm, not really resort, and not really a BnB, but they have cabins in the woods a person can rent like hotel rooms. After my dad sold the house (I had been going there while he and my uncle went on their cruises), I realized I do need that valuable alone time to focus on writing rather than cleaning, or gardening, or grumbling about how I can’t find quiet with the TV on all day long.

Writerly groups: I’m now the official president of our local Sisters in Crime chapter, so that’ll be interesting. I’m also part of a new critique group for suspense writers, and a group of fellow Sisters in Crime members as an experiment in cross-marketing. Which reminds me, I have newsletters to write and a website to update.

Novellas: I wrote two novellas starring the main characters of my published book over NaNo last year. I need to revise those and maybe use them as a tool (bribe?) for my newsletter peeps. Or stuff them into a drawer. Hmm. Maybe during my mini-writing retreat I can revise them enough so they don’t read like a 5th grader wrote them.

Finish my rural MN mystery: It’s roughly half-finished. Of course, that might get elbowed out by Book 3. Who knows?

Okay, I think my list is long enough. Uff-da. How are you planning to use your new year? More writing? More nature-walks for brainstorming? Fewer hours in the rabbit holes and time-sucks of the internet?

Whatever you choose, may you enjoy good health and an abundance of creative inspiration!

Have a great new year!

Another day, another nap.


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Muse-ing Backup #amwriting #amrevising #amreading

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Bloody hell, it’s cold. I shut out the icy wind, stomp off my boots, and peel off my coat. I could have picked a writer anywhere in the world. Hawaii. The Bahamas. Hell, New Zealand. But no, I had to pick Minnesota.

No one is at the desk in my writer’s office. Not a surprise. The aroma of mulled apple cider infuses the air. The walls reflect colored light. I almost expect to hear carols.

Almost.

“Oi, are you here?” I round the wall that hides the alcove from the back door.

Christmas lights drape like garlands over the two recliners in the nook. My writer is focused on her laptop screen, headphones on–good. Very good, unless she fell down an internet rabbit hole, like Facebook. Then it’s just a time-suck. She’s wearing a fuzzy hoodie, sweats, and booties she has claimed are toasty warm. Her feet are tapping out a rhythm against an imaginary floor.

“Well, at least it looks like you’re working.”

She jumps. “Damn it! You scared me.”

I have to take pleasure in the small things, even if it annoys her. “I called out when I came in, love.”

She pulls off her headphones. “Whatever. You’re late again.”

“Late? For what?”

“For writing my blog post.”

“Excuse me? Your blog post. I’m here for inspiration.”

“Uh-huh. And writing my post this week. Where were you? Adelaide? Sydney?”

“Minnesota.” I grab a bottle of water from the friggie and claim the second recliner in the alcove. “And why would I be writing your post this week? You were going to talk about writing and voice, weren’t you?”

She hands her laptop to me. “Here. Just, I don’t know, write about the solstice. This is your chance to share about all those pre-written history stories of whatever celebrations they used to do for the solstice.”

“Why would you think I’d know anything about that, love? I am not that old.” Chaucer, maybe, but not the Iron or Bronze Age.

She gets up. “I don’t know, think of something. I have to walk.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t focus. Again.”

I can’t help but smile. “It’s not that you can’t focus, love. Say it.”

She turns to me and rolls her eyes. “Arrgh. Fine. I can’t decide what to work on.”

*Chuckle* “And why is that?”

“Really? I suppose you’re going to take credit for me being inspired by three different projects, one of which isn’t my current genre. You were the one who started that. Remember? That urban fantasy?”

“Yes, I am going to take credit, love. And you’re thinking about the urban fantasy because you’ve been reading Jim Butcher and KN Banet for the past month. So pick something. You’ve been doing fine with the police procedural.”

“Yeah, but I have to reorganize it, and add some scenes, and pull some scenes.”

“It’s called ‘revision’.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, but I’ve spent years on that book.”

“And you’ve won a contest with it, and a publisher offered you a contract for it, even if you didn’t take the offer. Finish the revisions, love.”

“It was a small publisher, and they wouldn’t negotiate the contract. I need to work on Book 2.”

“You will.” I love it when she’s like this, with all that creative energy. “You’re still waiting on beta reader feedback for book 2 anyway. Go walk. And bring back some of that mulled cider I smell.”

“It’s a candle.”

Damn. “Then bring back some hot chocolate, love.”

Happy Winter Solstice! Can’t wait for the days to start getting longer again (more sunlight, not more hours)!

Nyx as a kitten and lap warmer