Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Gardens, retreats, and updates–oh my!

I add the new publishers from the second round of submissions to my list on the whiteboard in my writing office. I sense my Muse behind me, his energy radiating into me like a heater gone all psychic-creative vibes in place of warmth.

He settles beside me, his arm a solid line along my own. “What’s the tally, love?”

I add a footnote below the list and mark two entries with an asterisk. “Six passes, five radio-silent but could still be interested, and seven active.”

“What about these two?” He points to the marked entries.

“Those are ones who asked for the revised manuscript when my agent nudged them and offered it. So, crossing my fingers they’re still interested.”

“Hrrumph.” He rocks on his heels. “What does your agent think?”

“She thinks my latest revisions are good, and that might be the clincher.” Hoping. Searching for that damn leprechaun who’s supposed to grant wishes … wait, no, that’s a genie.

“So,” he slings an arm around my shoulders, “writing retreat to your dad’s this weekend.”

“And next weekend.”

He nods. “Does that mean you are going to stop procrastinating on that second draft you keep promising to work on?” His arm tightens around my shoulders.

Almost like a warning.

“Yes, after I get my promotional plan and three-to-five page synopsis done for my manuscript. One of the publishers my agent submitted to is asking for them.” I know he’s aware of that. I suspect he wants to remind me I’ve been dragging my feet and he’s done watching me do it.

Gulp.

“It’ll be a dreary weekend, and you’ll have all day Saturday to work. On writing,” he adds, an edge to his baritone voice. “Right, love?”

“That’s the point of going to my dad’s while he’s away. No distractions.”

“Uh-huh.” He squeezes my collarbone. Hard. “Just remember that.”

Er, o-kay. At least I managed to get the garden planted before the cool, rainy week set in. Needless to say, it’s been too wet to do much outside, although when I checked the garden last night between rainshowers my onions were still looking good. Whew! Those are the ones I worry about the most, because they’re just tender seedings about 5 inches high and about as thick around as the wire from a coat hangar. Once they’re strong enough to stand up, I can stop worrying about them.

No pics this week since it’s been so icky outside and the garden looks way too forlorn. I imagine by the time the rain finally stops and it dries out enough to work in the garden that the weeds will have a decent head start. Sigh.

Hey, since I’ve got you here, anyone know of any good blogs aimed at middle-grade readers or writers? One of my writing sisters is looking for opportunities to guest; her next middle-grade book is coming out this summer.

Enjoy your weekend–stay warm, stay dry, and WRITE!


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Spring Distractions

I love spring. I mean, if I had a choice of an extended season, I’d pick spring. Most of the bugs aren’t out in force quite yet, the trees are that bright fresh green color, the grass is bold emerald (and needs to be cut already?!), and this:

lilac_cr

lilac flowers

I wish I could include the smell. I go out to the lilac bush and just inhale the scent. We only have one bush, the common lilac, but my dad has more varieties, including one that’s called a French lilac (I think). They all pretty much smell the same, they’re just different colors, for the most part. I hope they’re still blooming next weekend. My dad’s leaving on his annual Alaskan cruise, so I’m taking the opportunity for a couple weekends of writing bliss at his place. This year my aunt (a misnomer because she’s actually my uncle’s ex-wife, but still part of the family) and her sister are going with my dad and my uncle.

Oh, and this is another favorite part of the season:

asparagus_cr There’s nothing like fresh asparagus from the garden. Sooo yummy!

It’s getting to be about that time again, when the weather stays warm enough for the garden to be planted. Not that a person needs to wait until mid-May to plant (holy sh*t, it’s the middle of May already?! Damn, where did the time go? Wasn’t it just St. Patty’s Day?), but I really don’t want to think about covering anything that might die if we get any frost.

My hubby tilled the garden last night, so I’m planning to plant this weekend. Needless to say, I’m ready to get stuff in the ground; one less thing to think about. Then again, that means I’ll need to start weeding. Ugh. It’s almost depressing to see just how well weeds are growing already:

creeping charlie_cr

creeping Charlie

The infamous creeping Charlie. Luckily, not in my garden area … yet. It’s a member of the mint family, so it spreads, but it should also be edible. I’ll have to dig up (or make up) some recipes. Hey, might as well eat it to beat it, right?

My son is done with his freshman year of college and is now home and enjoying life with no homework. His girlfriend came over yesterday and helped him clean out the chick box and put in new bedding. She loves animals, and enjoyed helping (I think), even if the chicks aren’t all that cute anymore:

chicks 1_crchicks2_cr

It’s almost time to move them outside into a nursery coop, a smaller area than our regular coop to let them acclimate to being outside. Our one remaining hen has been by herself since late last year when a skunk managed to get into the coop area (hence the new chicks). We think she’ll be happy to have some company.

I’ve been procrastinating on writing (in case you couldn’t tell πŸ™‚ ). My agent asked me to make one more small revision, so I’ll do that this weekend and get the manuscript to her next week for the second round of submissions. I’m looking forward to a couple weekends away from distractions at home to work on my WIP.

So there’s the rundown. Light on the writing stuff, heavy on everything else helping me procrastinate. I need to buckle down; I’m getting into that itchy, irritable, agitated state of mind that develops when I don’t write enough. I keep thinking about my writing sisters reunion coming up in August. Ahh, to have a few days to think only about writing. I can’t wait!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy Mother’s Day to those who have kids, and to those who don’t, because you probably fill that place in someone’s life, even if they aren’t your own child.

Happy Writing!


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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:

dragon3_cr

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 πŸ™‚ . 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.”

πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚ ), here you go:

violet yellow fuzzy_cr

yellow violet

violetpurple

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.

zoey roam_cr

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


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Stalled … or stalling?

Spring. There’s nothing quite like it. I stand outside my writing office on the patio and suck in a deep breath. I smell the green of new grass, of fresh leaves, of promise that winter is behind us.

Yeah. Right. Snow is predicted tomorrow night. Not much, mind you, and a good dose of rain to go with it, but still. It has the effect of dampening the excitement of spring.

“What the bloody hell are you doing, love?”

The edge in my Muse’s voice makes me wince. Consequently, I’m very careful not to turn around.

“Enjoying the fresh air. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. And snow. This week was icky anyway. Figured I needed to absorb the sun while it’s here.”

I sense him behind me. He’s radiating not anger, but something like agitation. “You aren’t writing.”

I know. The grass practically glows emerald in the sunlight. It never seems this green any other time of the year. The leaves on the trees have a lighter tone, like the newborn leaves are acclimating to being out in the open. Their green is light and delicate. Once the trees are fully dressed, the leaves darken just a bit, like they’re hardening for months of exposure.

“Why aren’t you writing?”

“It’s spring. It only happens once a year.” The spring weather here in MN can swing from low seventies to the low thirties, hence the snow we had just a couple days ago. Granted, snow doesn’t stick around long at this point, but after a week of gorgeous weather, it sure puts a damper on things.

“It’ll be spring for a few more weeks. Sit your ass in the chair and get to work.”

He’s standing close enough for me to feel his heat on the back of my neck. I turn. He’s inside my personal space, and doesn’t back up. His fiery blue eyes cut into mine, and a small shiver of fight-or-flight trickles down my spine. “Back. Off.”

“No. You’ve let your WIP sit for a month.” He waves a finger in my face. “You’ve worked the storyline through and made changes–improvements. Now you need to put those changes in place.”

“Look, tomorrow is supposed to be crappy again. I’m taking my daughter shopping this afternoon. I’ll work on it tomorrow.”

His eyes narrow. “Bullshit. You’re going to do what you’ve been doing for the last month. Not writing.”

I have to look away. Naturally the next thing I notice is his Indiana Jones get-up. Brown pants, tan shirt, and a fedora. A bullwhip is coiled on his belt.

And he’s been so nice lately.

“I need to work through the final scenes before I start the second draft. I’ve got good changes figured out. I just need a little more time. Besides, my readers are supposed to get back to me this week. My agent is back on Wednesday, and I told her I’d have the revisions done by next week.”

He crosses his arms on his broad chest. “I’m going to start riding your ass on this. You need to stop procrastinating. You know you need to have at least the third draft done before your writing sisters reunion. You’re not going to make it unless you dig in now.”

Sigh. “I know.”

Before I head back to the grindstone, I figured you guys might want a couple updates. And pics. Okay, they’re one in the same.

First, the asparagus. I think I’ll be picking it later today. It’s been cool, so it doesn’t grow much, but doggone it, I can’t wait.

asparagus

Then, of course, an update on the chicks. I’m telling you, they’re kinda homely.

chicks2_crchicks1_cr

They freak out whenever we open the top on the box. And they’re getting to the point where we’ll need to move them outside. Not until after this next cold snap, though. My son’s done with school this coming week, so I think we’ll task him with setting up the nursery coop.

I saw a nice bed of tulips blooming yesterday and realized how much the color does to the landscape after months of brown and gray. I can’t wait until the irises and lilacs bloom.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends!


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Write what you know?

Sounds like a great idea, right? If you write what you know, just think of all the research you don’t have to do. That’s more time you can spend actually writing. Then again, you miss all the fun of actual research (I mean, just think of the rabbit holes you can explore when you google “lethal food”). Disclaimer: No, I haven’t googled it yet, but I write mysteries, so I’ll get there πŸ˜‰ .

Not only do you get to skip out on a lot of research, you get to use all that special knowledge you’ve got stored in that gray matter of yours. It’s almost as good as bar trivia, right? I mean, if you find a substitute for drinking a shot every time you get a question wrong (just to keep the record straight, I’ve never personally played bar trivia, but I wouldn’t mind trying it πŸ˜€ )

Sounds like a plan. Heck, a lot of writers do it. Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, just like Kathy. John Grisham is a lawyer in the South, and he writes legal thrillers set in the South. Right now I’m reading a Jammer Davis book by Ward Larsen. Jammer is an ex-Air Force pilot and aviation accident investigator, just like … wait for it … Ward Larsen. The list goes on.

It’s a good way to make your characters sound authentic. And that’s the idea, right? Make the reader believe your character really knows what s/he is doing. If you are an investigative journalist and know the ins and outs of the business, including working for a television news station, your investigative journalist character will be authentic and believable, just like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Charlotte McNally.

Since you’ve done the job, you can add extra details to ensure the reader believes in the character. And adding that tidbit to the blurb lends you some weight with readers. Think: well, this author is a third-degree black belt in jujitsu, so this book about a ninja should be pretty good.

But … (you knew this was coming πŸ™‚ )

There’s a line between authenticity and readability. If you worked as a chocolatier for ten years, and your main character is a chocolatier, you can have that character describe how to get the perfect temper for the chocolate. If you, a geologist writing a thriller, make your character a geologist,Β  that character can describe the aspects of drilling for oil, or searching for gold, or taking core samples in Antarctica.

And just as you’re describing how the change in strata means a volcanic eruption a couple million years ago produced a solid vein of gold rather than gold scattered through the rock, your reader is skipping ahead to where the bad guy has your main character lined up with the cross-hairs of the scope of his high-powered rifle.

See the dilemma? You want to include the details to prove you know what you’re talking about, but unless the reader is interested in geology, they don’t want to wade through that. If you want some examples of TMTI (too much technical information), read Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books.

dash8 smOkay, so how much do you take out so the reader won’t skip that part? Or, how much do you include to make sure the reader knows you know what you’re talking about? That’s where I’m at with my manuscript. After talking with my agent, and reviewing the somewhat-but-not-very-helpful feedback from the publishers who have passed, I’m tweaking my manuscript to remove even more of the TMTI bits, because we suspect that might be a big part of the reason they passed. If the editors stumble through those parts, it ruins the reading experience. In fact, the most recent publisher to pass said it was a really close decision. If there’d been a little bit less TMTI, would they have accepted it? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s something.

For instance, my main character, who is an aircraft mechanic, is asked about the fire bottle for the auxiliary power unit (APU) in an airplane. Initially, she described it thus:

β€œFire bottle. If there’s a fire in the APU, it’ll blow. There’s an explosive squib here,” she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, β€œthat ruptures the diaphragm and releases high-pressure suppressant.” She indicated the line that carried the chemical extinguisher to the combustion chamber of the APU.

If you’re someone familiar with mechanical stuff, you can probably follow this pretty well. But if you have trouble doing more than pumping gas or airing up your tires, you’ll probably skim this. So, time to leave out more of the details:

β€œFire bottle. If there’s a fire in the APU, it’ll blow. There’s an explosive squib here,” she pointed to a nodule on the bottle connected to a wire harness, β€œthat releases high-pressure suppressant.”

Why did I keep the detail about the squib and the wire harness? Because it’s relevant in one of the climax scenes. Which is smoother to read? The second one, I hope.

I’ve pulled a lot of the remaining technical details out (by this point far less then in earlier drafts), but it’s still a struggle of wanting to prove I know what I’m talking about (authenticity) and making it accessible to mostly non-mechanical readers (readability). After my guinea pigs–er, readers go through it, I’ll send it to my agent for the next round of submissions. Here’s hoping!

It’s been a short week–at least it seems like it. Had a nice day with relatives last week, and everyone (in-laws) got to meet my son’s girlfriend. Whew, it’s over! For all those who celebrate Easter, have a blessed holiday weekend. For everyone else, get writing!


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Just a bit o’ pics

Hey there. Today is family gathering day. Last week, I threatened to have just pictures. I know, I know, you are sooo dreading this, and I won’t blame you if you leave now. I promise I’ll have more to say next week.

Oh, before I get to the boring stuff (you know, pics), a quick update. Another publisher crossed off the list. Three to go, and hopefully one of the question marks will come back with a positive response, but I’m not holding my breath. After talking to my agent a couple days ago, I’ll go back through the manuscript and make some tweaks before she sends it off again.

Alright, if you don’t make it through the rest of the post, have a great weekend! πŸ˜€

Zoey sit_cr

Is this my good side?

Zoe2_cr

Hey, that’s my spot!

zoey3_cr

Is there enough room for me?

Here are our new additions:

chicks

Brown leghorn chicks

Enjoy your weekend!


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Wake-up call

I imagine everyone in the US has heard by now the first major storm of the season is marching across the country’s midsection. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that yes, it really is November, even though it’s been feeling like September and October.

It’s been sooo nice all fall. I’ve been going for walks at lunchtime all week. We’ve got a nice 2-mile walking path across the street from the building where I work. I’m not saying that I can’t walk once the snow flies. It’s just that I’m less motivated to do so when it’s cold. And good walking shoes/boots for the winter is a plus, but not a plus I have right now. I can’t find any I like (not that I’ve been looking very hard πŸ™‚ )

Anyway, I’m in the area of the state that won’t see a foot of snow from this storm – Yay!! It does remind me of my WIP, where a blizzard plays a significant role in the story, and in the relationship between the two main characters. (No, I’m not going to give you more hints. That would take all the fun out of it πŸ˜‰ )

So, after this storm, our daily highs in the 50s and 60s (F) are predicted to drop to highs just above freezing, complete with wind chills below freezing. Talk about a hard stop. The impending weather inspired me to buy a new winter hat and gloves. Yippee!

Why is this a biggish deal? My hubby is frugal. In the grand scheme of things, he won’t cut open the toothpaste tube to scrape the last vestiges of its contents, but he will pull it out of the garbage after I’ve squeezed every last bit from it (or so I think) because it has another 2 or 3 toothbrush coatings left in it. To his credit, though, he can fix almost anything, and we have never had car payments.

When I told him I was buying a new winter hat because mine has a hole in it and hell, I’ve had it for 30 years, he immediately offered to find me another one from the family hat collection (You know, the one that consists of hats that every family member wears and no one can remember where they came from. Kinda like the lost and found collection.).

Yeah–no. I figure I can buy one new hat (two if you count the one for my daughter) after 30 years, four of which were before we met. And a new pair of gloves that won’t unravel at the tips and costs a buck and a half at Walmart. And maybe a pair of mittens that I don’t have to wear buck-and-a-half gloves in for them to be warm enough.

Ha! Merry Thanksgiving to me! (I’ve got my Christmas gift all planned out, I’m just waiting for Black Friday πŸ˜€ )

It’s kinda like when you buy that new notebook and fancy pen or pencil. For writing, of course. There’s a sort of promise that comes with it, the anticipation of using the first fresh page. Maybe you sprang for that Moleskine journal and a fine-tipped gel pen, perfect for use during the drive to the in-laws for the holidays. Or you finally get an iPad. Or a new laptop/tablet/computer. Or that new writing software you’re trying out for NaNo. There’s an excitement, an eagerness to dig in and try it out.

It’s like a new story, the one that’s been mulling around in your head, when you finally get the chance to put it on paper. When the characters and the setting and the story line all come together and develop a life of their own. Or like a revision to a story already written, a revision you know will add that little extra facet and bring the whole thing together.

I’m at that excited point now, with my WIP revisions almost finished. Just a run through Grammarly, maybe another read-through, then it’s off to the agent and crossing fingers she’ll like what I’ve done.

Then Turkey Day.

For those NaNo-ers, you should be around 35k-40k words by the end of the weekend.

Have a great writing weekend!