Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Introvert much? #amwriting #amrevising

Summer Solstice this week!

So as I’m trying to figure out what to write for this post, I keep thinking about the writerly part of my life. Writing and revising, sure, but there is a lot more to “being” a writer.

I think most writers are introverts. We’re so much more comfortable huddling at home with our notebooks, pens, and computers than we are at in-person events like book fairs, writing conferences, and writer/reader conventions.

Okay, that last one comes from knowing that Bouchercon, THE mystery writers/readers convention, is being held in Minneapolis this year. This convention is to all flavors of the mystery genre as Comi-con is to comic books, sci-fi, and superhero stuff. Well, we don’t dress up as our favorite characters … of course, our favorite characters aren’t blue, or wear robes with light swords, or have pointy ears, and we usually don’t debate which Spiderman or Batman actor was the best.

As writers, the craft is our focus. One thing writer conventions have is the opportunity to expand our knowledge of the craft. Is it enough for introverted writers to venture out and gather with hundreds of other writers? Eh, maybe. But hundreds?? The thought alone is enough to keep an introvert at home where it’s nice and quiet.

If we’re serious about getting that elusive book deal or pulling the trigger on self-publication, we know the whole introvert-stay-at-home-away-from-people thing isn’t going to cut it. Not only do we have to sell our books somehow, but one thing that can help on the book-selling front is a blurb from an author who is better-known than you are.

And that’s one of the things that should inspire writers to get out and meet other writers. It’s actually the most fun part of conventions, if you ask me. Talking to other writers–what’s more fun for a writer than talking about writing with someone who enjoys it as much as you do? Yes, being a member of a writers’ group like Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America is good for access to other writers in the same genre, but meeting them in person?

Granted, you probably won’t be meeting James Patterson or Michael Connelly or Lee Child, but you could meet Brian Freeman or William Kent Kreuger. Or Kellye Garrett. Or Rachel Howzell Hall. Kellye, by the way, is an amazing people person. And Kent is one of the nicest people.

Yes, I know William Kent Kreuger. Check out his Cork O’Connor series.

I can hear you say it: Sure, but all those people! I can’t do crowds like that!

Neither can the rest of us. But for four days we can hang out and meet people. Why? It’s called “networking”. When my book 2 is ready (soon 🙂 ), I can ask authors I know personally for a blurb. Doesn’t mean they’ll give me one, but knowing them personally gives me an advantage over someone they’ve never met.

Blurbs aren’t the only reason to network. Knowing someone who knows someone is valuable! Looking for a cover designer? Check in with that author you met at Left Coast Crime who has amazing covers and ask who they use. Looking for an editor? Ask around for recommendations. How about reviewers? Again, ask around.

And when you join a group of authors who are rebooting a local “meet the author” series, knowing someone like William Kent Kreuger or Matt Goldman or Brian Freeman is gold. Nothing like getting a NYT-bestselling local author to help the visibility of an author-reader venture!

More on that to come. In the meantime, stay cool this week (it’s going to be ugly-hot in most of the country for the next week or so) and keep writing!


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Of gardens, retreats, and a Muse #amrevising #amwriting

I leave my shoes, complete with a layer of garden mud/dirt on the mat just inside the outside door to my writing office. Then I feel something crawling on my leg. I strip off my garden jeans. Wouldn’t you know it, an effing woodtick. I use my trusty multi-tool pliers to introduce the eight-legged curse to the physics of pressure between stainless steel jaws. Heh. Take that, you little bloodsucker!

Now to find my comfy cotton lounge pants, which I’m pretty sure I tossed onto one of the recliners. Before I take a step, I hear the other door of my office open.

My Muse comes around the wall that separates the alcove from the outside door before I can escape. He arches a brow. I can tell he’s struggling not to smile. “Well, that’s different.” He loses the battle, and his wide grin stops just short of a snicker.

“Shut up and toss me my lounge pants. They should be on the recliner.”

He doesn’t move, just stares at me with a shit-eating grin.

“Fine, I’ll go around the other way.” I can get a clean T-shirt while I’m at it. I grab the handle of the door I just came through.

“Hang on, love.” My Muse disappears around the wall into the alcove and reappears a second later with my comfy pants in hand.

“Give.”

He makes a show of looking from my pants to his white T-shirt with its graphic of a surfing koala to me and back. “You know, you are as pale as my shirt.”

Well, at least he didn’t mention the fact I haven’t shaved my legs since last fall. “And that surprises you how? I live in Minnesota, and it’s barely summer. Toss me my pants.”

He pitches them to me. I practically jump into them.

“I’m sure there’s a good story behind that,” he says. I can hear the laughter in his voice.

“Yes, it was a woodtick. I killed it.” I push past him and grab my laptop off my desk before I settle into a recliner. “By the way, where have you been?”

He grabs two bottles of water from the mini-fridge and hands one to me as he settles into the other recliner. “Around. When are you going back to that cute little cabin?”

“Not until October. Glad you liked it.” It was definitely a good few days. No distractions except those of my own making (and with lousy internet, fewer of those). No TV all day long, no news, no work, no trying to focus when there’s all the other stuff to do, like clean, and procrastinate cleaning.

“Hmm. You should go back before then.”

“Can’t. Besides, it’ll be way busier over the summer.”

“Bummer. You’re about due to go back to Book 2, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” I’d like to spend more time on my police procedural, though. Sort of. I got the scenes rearranged, and I’m on the first run through them to make sure all the events that I rearranged are now in the proper sequence. I feel like I’ve lost some of the voice, though. I’ll have to focus on that on the next round.

“Tell you what, love. Give the procedural one more week, then get Book 2 done.”

“That’s the plan. I still have to figure out how to cut 10,000 words.” Ten thousand words? I almost–almost–forgot about that.

“And don’t forget about those novellas.”

“I haven’t.” I can’t work on those until I get Book 2 revised and sent back to my agent. “You aren’t planning on disappearing for a pub crawl or anything are you?”

He winks at me, dimples deep in his cheeks with his sly smile. “No plans, love, but I haven’t seen E for a while.”

Whew, it’s getting warm in here. Better get to work. Hope everyone is doing well, writing well, and staying healthy!

Last week, kitten flashback. Here they are all grown up!


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I’m baaack! #amwriting #amediting

Blueberry Trail – Shire in the Woods

Last weekend I ventured farther north to my personal writing retreat. If you look at a map of MN, there’s a big lake sorta in the middle to the northish of the middle of the state–Lake Mille Lacs. My retreat was a bit east of that, a roughly three-hour drive for me. Our trees were almost fully dressed, but up by Lake Mille Lacs they were just starting to leaf out.

The place I stayed, Shire in the Woods, started out as a hermitage, but now offers cabin rentals for those who like the peace and quiet (except when people drive their motorcycles around and kids use their outside voices). It’s at the edge of “Lake Country”–farther north and west is the bulk of the vacation/resort area–so I suspect a lot of people stay there as a “home base” for fishing adventures. It’s also at the edge of a state park–more comfortable than camping, but not so ostentatious as “glamping”.

I didn’t take any pics of the cabin I stayed in because they have quite a few on their website. I stayed in the Loft, a tiny cabin with an upstairs (cool spiral staircase!). One amenity is free internet, but I found the internet connection flakey and barely usable. Which is fine, except that meant no research (heh, no rabbit holes) and barely sufficient to check email.

Looking out the front window of the Loft

I chose this cabin because of the two levels (separates sleeping area from working area) and the glider rockers. I like to sit in a recliner with the footrest out when I write, so these were appealing. There’s a tiny kitchenette that includes a mini-fridge and the bare basics of salt, pepper, coffee, sugar, creamer. I brought my own coffee (nice excuse to get some good coffee 🙂 ).

It was cool and gloomy–I think I saw maybe a total of a half-hour of sunshine the entire three days. The cabins are small enough (at least the Loft was) to not be too cold. There was an electric heater (one of the ones that look like a skinny radiator), which kept the place warm enough that I didn’t have to use any wood.

My intent had been to wander the trails a bit, but things were still thawing and drying out, so the one trail I did venture on had some low, very wet (standing water) spots. And wood ticks! Ugh! I brought some bug repellent with DEET on purpose because I know that a) it’s tick season, and b) they have deer ticks in the area. So as I’m trying to walk a trail and skirt around the wet spots, I’m traipsing through last year’s dead grasses and naked branches, prime wood tick hangouts.

I still managed to get wet feet (granted, they do tell you to bring waterproof footwear because of those low spots), and I have never seen so many wood ticks trying to hitch a ride at one time. I got back to the cabin, and brushed nearly a dozen ticks off my pants–that I had sprayed with DEET (40% DEET)! I showered right away, so I could warm up and make sure no ticks found a meal.

Needless to say, I didn’t venture on the trails after that. Note to self: probably a good idea to bring waterproof boots next time. And more bug spray. Lots more bug spray.

I finished my revisions for Book 2; now to let it cool off a bit before one more run though it. Also some progress on my police procedural that I have to reorganize. Not so much writing with that one yet, but shuffling scenes around. I did determine I need to write out a timeline to get the sequence of events set in my head; the index cards help, but I learned I need to walk through the scenes in a timeline format to really get a handle on where they are in the story.

Overall, a success! I’m going to go back for another retreat in October, after the tourist season but before the winter weather season (usually). Maybe it’ll be after tick season by then, and it’s usually pretty dry as well.

Next time I’m going to try the Woodlands cabin. Single level, but seems to be laid out in a way that allows some separation between the sleeping area and the working area. And it’s tucked away from the main activity. That is one thing I noticed–though the cabins have some trees between them, they’re still pretty close to each other in the grand scheme. The Woodlands is set apart; I found it during my trail adventure.

This weekend is garden planting weekend for me, so I’ll be not writing for most of it–boo–except it’s supposed to rain, so we’ll see how far I get.

For all those in the US, have a great holiday weekend!


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Has anyone seen my focus?

Photo by Daisy S on Unsplash

If you have, please send it home.

Yep, it’s been that kind of a week. I’m stuck in revision mode, but you know when you get to a spot you know you need to revise, but haven’t got a clue how to do it and not make it sound stupid? That’s where I’m at.

So I’ve been spinning my wheels, taking brainstorming walks, and debating whether to stick a pin in it and move on to the next spot. Thing is, how I revise this spot will affect other revisions later in the book. So, I need to figure this one out first.

Or do I work on another project for a few days and then go back to Book 2? Or do I take some time to work on my website and do all that other “administrative” stuff, like finding in-person events over the summer (you know, like street fairs, book fests, that sort of thing), the sort of stuff that is tough for writers to do in the first place. Although, it is nice that there are a lot of in-person things again.

I think I got out of practice, or just really comfortable not doing that stuff again. If I’m not at an in-person event, it means I can spend that much more time writing, right?

I have to give a lot of credit to real life stuff for derailing my focus. Who knew that worrying about a child trying to “adult” and having a tough time of it (because of her choices, despite the suggestions and shared wisdom of her parents) would torpedo so much creative energy? We offer guidance, suggest course corrections, but she’s still at the “not listening to my parents for the principle of it” stage.

Man, I can’t wait until that 21 year-old brain matures. If we’re lucky, she’ll listen and take our advice into consideration when making choices. Until then, we’re still pretty much dealing with a teenager. Sigh.

On the bright, “I can’t wait for it” side, I have my personal writing retreat (three-night stay) next weekend. Woo-hoo! Happy dance! Granted, I have expectations, and I know the weekend may not live up to them, but I’m hopeful. Intentional. If the weekend goes well, I’m going to try to schedule another personal writing retreat this summer.

Crossing my fingers! I’ll try to let you know how it goes; I will probably do my regular post, but if I’m on a roll, maybe not on my regular posting day.

After that, we have to get the garden planted; my tomato plants are more than ready to get into the ground. My pepper seedlings, on the other hand (and my brussels sprouts) are not doing well this year. I think I overwatered them, and they’re struggling to recover. I’ll have to go to the local greenhouse and get some plants. My cukes are coming along nicely; after last year and replanting 3 (4? 5?) times with only one plant as a result, I decided to start my cukes this year. I don’t normally, since I’ve never had much trouble when I’ve planted them directly in the garden, and cucumber plants don’t like being transplanted.

Anyway, after a brush with summer and nasty storms, the weather is settling into a more spring-like pattern–finally! It should be pretty comfortable next weekend, somewhere between the low 60s and mid-70s F for temps, and cooling to the mid-50s or so at night. The trees are waking up, and some are fully dressed again. I love the return of green plants!

Have a wonderful writing week!


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Hey, is that … Spring?

Look quick! Don’t blink! We’re having Spring–for a week. Well, five days. Then BOOM! Summer.

Damn. I love Spring, and it’s way too early for 80 deg F temps in MN. Besides, the earlier it gets warm, the earlier I need to get the garden in. We’re past the usual last-frost date (not that it matters much in MN; we’ve had frost halfway through May), and the stinging nettle, quackgrass, and creeping charlie are popping up like it’s a race, so of course Hubs decides we need to get the garden in.

Okay, buddy. First, kill the weeds along the fence that we didn’t pull out last year, or the year before, or the year before that (I used to take the fence down every year, but since we wrapped the chicken wire around it, it’s a PITA to take down in the fall after the weeds have grown into it). We try not to use chemicals, so he got one of those dragon torches to kill the weeds. Great, except it’s more effective when you actually use it, and when said weeds aren’t a foot tall.

And the creeping charlie managed to breech the ramparts last year. I am this close to using an herbicide on that stuff. Hubs staunchly refuses, but damn it, he’s the one who brought home the grass clippings that started the invasion from another property we had. And I’m the one who maintains the garden.

Might need to be a little covert on this one.

Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to be a rant about weeds, or even about the “don’t blink, you’ll miss it” spring. I actually had a question for my fellow writers who have author websites.

So here’s the thing. I put together my website before Murder in Plane Sight came out. I was in IT for years, so doing it myself was a given. I looked at other authors’ websites to get ideas, and some authors posted about websites and tools on their blogs.

So, I did my research (ad nauseum) and picked a tool that worked well for me. It had more capability than WordPress, and I could use one plugin vs many. It worked great! Until it didn’t. So, this tool, at some point, stopped playing nice after it updated, and I couldn’t edit my webpage. So, I check in with the plugin’s tech support, who gave me a bunch of suggestions I couldn’t do because I don’t host my own site. I finally got it working again. For a while.

Then it happened again. I needed to update my site, and the damn tool stopped working again. So back to tech support. Basically, they said to rollback the updates. I did, and it worked! Rinse and repeat. It’s happened again, and I’ve turned off the auto-updates (which we all know is going to bite me in the ass at some point, because you should always keep software updated).

I’m done fighting with this plugin. Yes, it’s a subscription thing, but not too expensive (Elementor, if you are curious. And other people might not have any problems with it at all). Still, it should work after an update, right? Especially after I’ve followed all of their tech support suggestions to fix it.

Anyway, for those fellow writers who maintain their own author site, what themes or tools do you use? Suggestions? I’m starting the whole researching websites thing again, but I’m reluctant to spend a ton of time I could use to write (or plant the garden) looking for reviews and playing around with trial versions. Or playing around with my website when I don’t know if the tool I try will work for me, or even if I should redesign my whole author site. And that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole–looking for ideas on website design. Hell, designing a website when I don’t know what design resonates with me.

So, if anyone has any suggestions, toss them my way. I’ll probably have to set up a temporary new website to play around with until I get things figured out so I don’t mess up my real one.

Hope everyone is having some nice spring weather! Take a walk, enjoy the tulips and daffodils fast, because they won’t last long.

Happy Writing!

Watching chipmunks really wears a gal out