Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Ee-nee-mee-nee-mi-nee-Muse #amrevising #amreading

I dusted off a project I pitched a few years ago. It’s an old friend, a story I worked on for months–years. I won a contest with it, workshopped it, and almost signed a contract for it (it was a small publisher I had a few doubts about).

Funny thing about writing (any craft, I suppose): the more you do it, the more you learn, and the more you look at old projects and see all the “issues” you recognize now.

Do I revise the project and try again or set it aside and focus on something fresh? It’s not like I have a shortage of projects to work on. It’s more a matter of which one I can polish in the least amount of time before I go back to Book 2.

Then again, switching genres for a while might be nice. I have a traditional fantasy that I never did finish. There’s that urban fantasy I started. I like the tone of that one, a touch of snark (has nothing to do with the snarky urban fantasies I’ve been reading lately as I’m waiting impatiently for Jim Butcher’s newest Harry Dresden book. Really.).

Thick tropical heat and humidity invade my writing office. I look up from my computer. “Shut that damn door. Leave the mosquitoes outside.”

My Muse pushes the door shut and arches an eyebrow. “Nice to see you too, love.” His short blond hair is bleached on the top, a contrast to his sun-bronzed skin. His weathered red muscle shirt shows a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle–Michaelangelo, I think–on a surfboard, with “Cowabunga!” emblazoned below. Bright green board shorts and flip-flops complete the outfit.

“Surfing?”

He flashes a wide grin. “The beaches are almost deserted. I had the waves to myself.”

“So glad you were able to take a break.” I can’t help the sarcasm. Well, I could, but hey, he was off somewhere surfing, and I’m at home being a good author. “I could have used your help this week.”

He saunters to my desk. “You did fine this week, love. Finished your class–nice revision of your last assignment, by the way, submitted to your writing sisters for your retreat, and registered for another class.” He ruffles my hair. “You done good.”

He drags a chair around to sit beside me and slings an arm around my shoulders, giving me a whiff of coconut-scented sunscreen and a nice view of his broad chest, surfer turtle and all. “Ready for the second round of revision on Book 2?”

“No. I’m letting that sit for another week. I’m going back to this one.”

He peers at the screen, a crooked grin stretching across his face. “Again? You know I really like this one.”

Only because one of the main characters is an Australian ex-pat. “I know. I’m reading through it again. It’s been awhile.” I didn’t realize how much I’ve learned since I last revised it. “It needs a little work.”

“Maybe.” He shoves back and puts his feet on my desk. Grains of sand sift from his feet like salt. “Your new class hasn’t started, your virtual retreat is a few weeks away, and you’ve been wanting to revise it. So jump in.”

But urban fantasy is calling. I really like the voice in that one, even if it’s only the first few chapters.

My Muse sighs. “No.”

“Hey, you were the one who got me started on that story. I was even going to model one of the characters after you.” Snide comments and all.

“Flattered, but no.” His feet land on the floor and he leans forward. “Focus on one thing at a time, especially since you have an agent who works with mysteries. No fantasy genres until you get the other projects finished and sent off. Got it?”

He’s right. “Got it.” Hasn’t stopped me from reading urban fantasy lately, which is disturbingly addicting. Maybe it’s the snark inherent in so many urban fantasy stories. Laugh out loud snark.

“Good.”

This weekend will be my first “running errands” weekend since mid-March (hubs did the last one). Got my face mask, got my hand sanitizer, I’m ready.

Stay cool! Keep writing!


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Kicking drafts and taking names #amrevising #amwriting

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I’m trying to pry dirt from under my fingernails, so of course I run into the door to my writing office before I turn the knob. Damn. It’s a good thing I was distracted, because the moment I open the door the odor of fried food and stale beer, like the kind you can’t get out of your clothes after watching the game at a sports bar (I know, it’s been a while, but you still remember, right?), wafts past me. Part of me wants to turn around and go back to weeding, but I resist.

Yeah, I probably should have listened to that part.

“I understand a ‘Job Well Done’ is in order, love.” My Muse is standing in front of the whiteboard covering one wall of my office. His fried food cologne must be emanating from the rugby jersey he’s wearing. His khaki cargo shorts have a stain on one thigh I hesitate to identify. Deck shoes complete his ensemble. No socks. Nice calves.

“Where have you been?”

He adds a note to the homework criteria I wrote on the board. “Things are opening up. Outdoor seating, and now some indoor seating, but the weather’s too nice to be inside.”

“So, you and Mr. E went on a pub crawl. If you were sitting outside, why do you smell like a sports bar?”

He adds another note. “Do you know fryers smoke? Even outdoors.”

I swallow a snarky comment about fryers and Camels or Marlboros. “Let me guess. You and Mr. E sat downwind. Didn’t think to move?”

He hit me with his brilliant blue eyes, a brow arched. “You make it sound like there was somewhere else to sit. It was like everyone was coming out of hibernation. We had to wait in line at a couple places.”

That sounds about right. “I can’t believe you had to sit downwind of the fryer at every bar you hit.”

“Well, there was one where they didn’t set up the fryers outside.” He adds one more note, then snaps the cover on the dry-erase marker. “Well done, love. You finished your first round of revision.”

I stand beside him in front of the board. “Um, thanks, I guess.”

“You sound disappointed.”

“I wasn’t, until I dug into my homework assignment.” Plotting. This assignment, my last for the class, looks at the story plot points. I’ve been feeling a major lack of satisfaction with the story, even after I figured out the plot to begin with. When I dug into my homework, I realized why. “I need to adjust the plot. Like, a significant change.”

My Muse swaps the marker in his hand for a different color, and adds another note. “That’s a good thing. You found the problem now, rather than two revisions from now.”

“You could have said something earlier, like before I finished the first draft–correction, finished the first draft after seven false starts. Maybe I would have gotten through it faster. Like after only five false starts.”

He rests an arm around my shoulders. The smell of French fries assaults my nose. “You forget one thing, love.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t always listen to me.” Before I can respond, he continues. “Besides, you got to feel like you accomplished something by finishing the first round of revision. There’s a lot to be said about feeling like you’ve made progress. It’s important for all writers, but especially for one who tossed out seven partially-finished first drafts.”

“So, you didn’t hammer me with the revelation until I finished the first revision? Do you know how much further I’d be if I’d figured this out sooner?” I’m so glad I’m taking this class, because I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to see the glaring weak spot otherwise.

“How much have you learned because you analyzed the plot for your homework?” He tosses the marker onto the sill of the board. “You know the story will be stronger because of it.” He squeezes my shoulders, then heads to the mini-fridge and pulls out a brewski. He points the bottle at me then the board before twisting off the cap and slinging it into the trash. “Get your homework finished so we can work on that other story. I have a few ideas.”

I’m sure you do. He’s right, I can see the places where the plot needs work, which is part of the process. I do find it frustrating to get through one round of revision before I have that head-slapping “DUH!” moment.

Come to think of it, I’ve had a lot of those “DUH!” moments with this story. Sheesh.

Now that I’m done with my first round of revision, once I finish my homework, I’ll move on to a different story for a few weeks to let Book 2 rest. After this class, I have one more to take to get my second badge and move one step closer to my writing certificate.

How is your writing coming along? Enjoy this last week of Spring before the solstice next week!

Zoey on retaining wall


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Of Muses, plans, and panda-mics #amwriting #amrevising

First, more shameless self-promotion (because someone has to do it 🙂 )

There’s still time to vote!

And super-duper-with-fireworks-and-dancing-Snoopys THANK YOU shout-out to all who voted! You ROCK!!

dancing Snoopy

“Really, love?” My Muse settles into the visitor’s chair across the desk from me. Wait, when did I get a visitor’s chair? “You spent how long putting those images together?” He leans forward and rests a forearm on the desk. “You should have been working on revisions.”

Sigh. I slump in my chair. “I know. I hate the marketing stuff, because I know nothing about marketing.” All the “market your book” articles and posts sound logical, until it comes time to actually put it into practice.

“You’re a writer. You try to make people believe your stories are real. How is marketing different? You’re trying to make people want to read your stories.”

I stare at him. Today he’s sporting a black long-sleeved concert T-shirt for Crowded House, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. Black’s not really his color, but he sure fills out the shirt nicely. “There is a difference. One is storytelling, the other is persuasion. I’ve never been good at persuasive writing.”

“It’s like any other writing. You try to connect with the reader.”

“Sure. Easier said than done.”

“Maybe it’s your attitude, love.” He trains his striking blue gaze on me. “Your goal is to convince people to buy your book and spread the word.”

“You heard about this pandemic thing, right? All my panels have been cancelled. Heck, I’m not even sure my Totally Criminal Cocktail Hour appearance is going to happen. It works so much better when I can actually talk to someone face-to-face.”

He narrows his eyes. “You are good at that, once you get comfortable.” He straightens in his chair. “Well, since you aren’t spending time running off to panels and such, you have that much more time to write.”

“I’m trying.” I’m actually progressing on my homework. I need to submit up to 4,000 words that demonstrate my ability to use friends, foes, and foils. You know, sidekicks, antagonists, and characters that reflect or contrast the MC.

He raises a brow. “You have an empty nest this weekend.”

“Yeah. And I want to turn in my homework by Monday. Then there’s the garden.” After years of trying to downsize, it seems this year will be a bit of regression. Makes sense to have a bigger garden, all things considered. And the weather has been glorious the past few days. I need to enjoy it before the door opens on Summer. Weather guys say we’re getting hit with temps in the mid- to upper-80s next week. Ugh. Too hot for May.

“I’ll be here, love. And remember, just because you are outside doesn’t mean you don’t stop writing.” He taps his temple. “In here.”

Trust me, there are days I can’t shut it down. And days I can’t get it fired up. I’m progressing, though.

How is everyone doing? Remembering what day it is? Staying active? Yeah, me too. Thought I’d toss a little humor into things. Did you catch the “panda-mic” in my post title? Well, here ya go:

Heh. Get it? Actually, the panda is how I’ve been feeling lately as things keep going on.

Anyway, I have homework to do and a Dresden novel to read before the new one comes out. Re-reading Skin Game. If you don’t know Harry Dresden, you’re missing out 😀

Have a great weekend!


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Week 6: Spring sticks around

leaves-4112335_640
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s been 6 weeks of working from home now. Wait. Okay, I can believe it. I believe it so much I’m going to take a mental health day next week, due in large part to unending frustration with our internet provider and slow internet speeds.

On the bright side, we’re one week closer to new service. I just hope the new service is way better than what we have now. We won’t know until we get it.

“You’re looking at it wrong, love.” My Muse closes the back door to my writing office and toes off his sneakers. He’s wearing a purple sweatshirt with the Minnesota Vikings logo on the front, a fitting(?) match to the Packers green sweatpants with the Green Bay logo on a thigh. “If you can’t use the internet, you won’t be so distracted.”

NFL Minnesota Vikings logo Green Bay Packers logo

“You know it’s risky to wear both those colors around here, right?”

“Here?” He waves a hand to include the entire office. “No. A sports bar in either state? Sure, but lucky for me there are no bars open right now.” He snags a beer from the mini-fridge and plops into one of the two recliners. “Besides, we have more important things to do than watch the draft.” He gestures with his beer. “Right?”

Don’t roll eyes. Don’t roll eyes. “Right. And you know that I’ve been working on my revisions.”

“Yes, you have. For the most part.”

“What do you mean, for the most part? I’m halfway through. And I’m going to turn in my next homework assignment this weekend.” Once I decide what scene to use.

“Uh-huh.” He narrows his eyes. “Just how much revision have you done this week?”

Not as much as I should have. Story of my life. “Hey, I did some revision every day until the internet started acting up a few days ago.” I think it’s the combination of week six of stay-at-home and frustration. At least spring seems to have locked in. “Besides, I took walks. Even went for a run the other day. That’s important, too.”

My Muse nods. “Yes, for you it is. However, you need to finish this class, and one more to get your second badge, and you have to finish your manuscript to get the certificate.”

“I know, I know. Which is why I’m using my WIP for homework assignments.” I’m participating in a Fiction Writing certificate program through UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies, and just received my first badge. I like to think of it as genuine “street cred”.

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Writing Fiction I - 2020-04-09

“It’s good incentive, love.” He slides to the front edge of the recliner and plants his elbows on his knees. “Let’s get that next assignment turned in so you can focus on revisions.”

“Wow, you are being exceptionally accommodating.”

“You are being,” he hesitates, “pleasantly diligent. Keep it up.”

I think “pleasantly diligent” means “butt in chair, fingers on keyboard without coersion”. Anyway, even though this stay at home stuff is getting old, especially with the internet issues, I feel I’m making progress. It helps that my daughter is working every day, and my son is still at his apartment (though he’s been home a few times over the past couple weeks). It’s warmer, so hubs is doing more stuff outside (read: the TV is off!), giving me more quiet time to write.

Hope you are all well and safe! Keep on writing!

Zoey the cat chilling on the deck


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Lighten up!

Finishing up week 3 of working from home. And self-isolation. I feel like I should be following starship protocol:

Captain’s log 2020095: Icy drizzle and snow pellets today, like teeny snowballs. Cold. Windy. And still waiting out the statewide stay-at-home order. Supplies are okay; no need to ration yet. The crew is restless, but we have little choice but to resist the desire to wander.

Anyway, one thing people are doing during this whole thing to brighten things is put up Christmas lights. I love the idea; the lights are my favorite part of Christmas.

So, I have two strings up, and it does help with mood.

lights

“Mood, maybe. Writing? Not so much.” My Muse grabs a beer from the mini-fridge and settles back into one of the two recliners in my writing office.

“I’m working on revisions.”

“You are, love. Considering you haven’t had to commute for the past few weeks, I thought you would be further along by now.”

“I finished my class. And taxes. And migraine days.” I grab my own beer from the fridge and drop into the other recliner. “I got some other stuff done.” Not cleaning, though. Actually, that’s on my list for this weekend, but I’m not going to tell him that. Better get it done before the weather gets nice and warm and beckoning.

“Other stuff that doesn’t include writing.”

“Other stuff that includes walks in the nice spring weather and … Hey, at least I’m not totally freaking out because I’m cooped up and distracted.” Just sort of freaking out. A little. Yeah, I’ll go with that.

“Uh-huh.”

He doesn’t sound convinced.

“Whatever. I’m working on revisions.” And resisting starting something that keeps poking at me. An urban fantasy. Maybe it’s because I’m waiting anxiously for the next Harry Dresden book–finally!

“You do not need to be distracted, love. You have a space. Use it.”

*Grumble* I do have a space. “My lights are in the common living area. I like my lights.” Especially these days. Maybe I can start working on my real writing office after I’m done cleaning, since my son isn’t here right now.

“Your son isn’t here now, love, but he is graduating in a month. Then what?”

He’s right. It’s not like the job market is screaming for people at this point. “He’ll move back home.” I love my family, but I miss my empty nest. By the time school is out I should be able to get the garden started, so I’ll have … wait. More distractions. Sigh.

“I’ll use my space more.”

“Not just for meditation practice, either.”

I started practicing meditation, but I’ve missed the past few days. “I know, I know. Once I finish going over the hard copy again, I’ll get back into the writing space routine.”

“Good.” He drains his beer and tosses the empty into the recycling bin. “And ignore the urban fantasy.”

“I want to write a story with a dragon.”

He focuses his brilliant blue eyes on me. “No. Fantasy. Finish book 2, your police procedural, and the rural mystery. Then think about fantasy.”

Ugh. He’s right. But maybe I can squeeze a short story in somewhere.

Anyway, I thought I’d share something a little different. This is Zoey when she wants to be petted. (If you have your volume up, ignore the banging and TV in the background. Hubs was making lunch.)

Zoey wants petting (Note: it’s on Dropbox, so just ignore the stupid “sign up for Dropbox” popup)

Enjoy! Stay safe and keep writing!

zoeychair