Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Muse-ing Boundaries

“Stop.” My Muse blocks the entry to my writing area.

“Outta my way.” I don’t try to push past him. He’s a six-foot-two-inch speciman of toned masculine energy wearing the visage of an Australian dancer/model/actor. Any effort on my part to physically move him would be fruitless, unless, of course, the point is to get up close and personal. Not in that kind of mood right now (though if I thought about it, I’d probably change my mind).

“No.” He shoves me back. “I’m not letting you do that, love. Not that way.”

Gads, the agitation tensing my shoulders is creeping into my gut. “I can’t stand it anymore. I have to do something.” I launch my soapbox at him.

He catches it without blinking. “You are not going to get on this thing and rant. It’d be stupid and ineffective, and you know it.”

“Give me that.” I reach for my soapbox.

He holds it above his head. “No. And I’m not letting you have it back until you promise me you’ll just use it for a footrest.”

“Dammit, just let me use it for a few minutes. I need to–”

“We talked about this, love. No ranting on Facebook, Twitter, or your author blog. Especially not your author blog.” With a little effort, and some nice muscle flexing, he somehow collapses my soapbox into a flat board about an inch thick, then waves it at me like a school marm with a rod. “Write a short story. Write a lot of short stories. Don’t just rant.”

I hate this. Effing politics–hell, it’s not even the election year yet, and I’m seething at the blatant idiocy of–

He grabs my arm with one hand and my chin with the other, forcing me to stop and look at him. “I said no ranting.” He shoves me back, face red, eyes blazing with a cold that makes a Minnesota blizzard in January look like a tropical heat wave. “Short stories. Hell, long stories. Fiction that shadows today’s atmosphere, science fiction that reflects what might happen or the results of what happened in the past, or urban fantasy. I don’t care which, but that’s how you do it. Got it?”

“Who are you, Jiminy Cricket? You’re not my conscience, you’re my Muse.”

“I hope your Jiminy Cricket is a fecking fire-breathing dragon today so it can keep you in line.” He looks over my shoulder. I turn.

Night-fury-01Sure enough, it’s a Night Fury in iridescent scarlet with flaming eyes. Interesting development, though: it’s focused on my Muse, not on me. A vein in his forehead swells like a fire hose under pressure. “Really?” he addresses my conscience. “You so don’t want to go there.”

My conscience opens its mouth, and rows of razor teeth pop up from its gums. “I don’t think it’s scared of you.”

My Muse directs his full attention to me. “I’m not looking for scared, love. I’m looking to adjust its attitude.”

A tight coil of nerves sizzles in my gut when his ice-blue gaze locks to mine. Then it hits me, that musty scent of old books laced with aged leather and fresh coffee, chased by the loamy perfume of autumn with a hint of sunshine. My creative energy surfaces and extinguishes the burning agitation, replacing it with anticipation. My fingers flex; I need to write.

He glances over my shoulder once again. My conscience, now a subdued royal blue instead of brilliant red, yawns and vanishes. “Much better.” He gestures into my writing area. “After you.”

“Ass,” is about all I can muster at this point.

“You forgot the ‘pain in the’ part.”

Sigh. I had a nice amount of mad going, too. I scribble out the entry on my whiteboard agenda for “political and social commentary”, and the one below it, “I see ignorant myopic people”, and add an entry for my WIP outline revision. I snap the cap back onto the dry-erase marker. “There. Happy?”

“You’ll be happier with this to-do list, trust me.”

I’m not so sure about that, but he is right. About the boundaries, I mean.

A wild shout-out to my writing sister who released her women’s historical fiction book (and neglected to tell the rest of us). Congrats, C!

Have you popped on over to the Meet Your Main Character site this month? We’re featuring the story of a traveling electrician–what a great idea for a protagonist (or antagonist) in a mystery. Or a romance, if you prefer. Don’t forget to check out our Top 5 lists!

I’ll update you on the garden next week. Things are winding down (yay!), but I’ve still got a lot of stuff in there. I’m going to try making kale chips this weekend. Might have to pickle some peppers, too (and no, I’m not going to invite Peter Piper over to pick any). I think we’ll have enough tomatoes for another 7-quart round of canning. Whew!

May your weekend be filled with writing, lots of writing!


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The Fellowship of the Writing Sisters

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf:  You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.

Bilbo:  You can promise that I’ll come back?

Gandalf:  No. And if you do, you will not be the same

Six women. Six stories. A journey into the wild world of novel writing. We have the essentials: food, fudge, wine, chocolate, and writing. On our trek we talk about writing, make notes, and try to absorb the wisdom of our mentor in a limited amount of time. We even brought in our sister in California who couldn’t make the trip in person this year. Thank goodness for Skype!

There’s something to be said about a gathering of writers who all “get” how each other writes. There’s a lot to be said about taking time away from the everyday, and focusing on things that matter to you, especially if those things also matter to the people you’re with. We’ve helped each other through writer’s block, plotting problems, character, setting, and voice.

Corriandor, our B&B writing mascot

Corriandor, our B&B writing mascot

I got some much needed help with my WIP from my writing sisters. Sure, I have to do some major revision, but I’m only on the first draft, so I know there’s more rewriting on the docket. That’s one of the best things about getting together with fellow writers: they can give you so many good ideas. I know the story will be so much stronger after I make changes based on their suggestions.

We’re taking a short break after a long session this morning, a late lunch, and a meandering walk through a nearby cemetery and a community garden area where people can rent small plots to grow veggies, herbs, and flowers.

My Muse’s hammock sits empty on the front porch of the bed and breakfast we’re staying at. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the other Muses around either since before lunch. No wonder we slowed down.

Wait. He’s ambling down the sidewalk, solo. “Hey, where’d you go?”

“Why? Didya miss me?” He takes the porch steps in one long stride. He seems far too refreshed and relaxed after this morning’s work. He settles in the porch swing and pats the space next to him. “Have a seat, love.”

Yep, he’s waaay too relaxed. I lean against the porch railing instead. “What’s up with you?”

“Why?”

“Have you been drinking?”

He laces his fingers together, puts his hands behind his head, and starts swinging. “No more than usual.”

“Where are the other muses?”

He stretches an arm along the back of the bench. “Around. Come sit with me.”

Tempting. Very tempting. “Why are you in such a good mood?”

His grin emphasizes the mischievous glimmer in his eyes. “Are you kidding? After the past four days, you’ve revised your WIP plot to crank up the tension, make your protagonist more sympathetic, and spice up the conflict. I can feel it’s going to be good. Very good. All you need to do is rewrite your beat sheets to accommodate the updates, then revise the story, starting from page one. And I didn’t have to dog you about it.”

He’s right. And I feel pretty good about the changes my Writing Sisters suggested. I’m eager to get started on the revisions. The creative energy gets charged up when we gather together, and I want to ride that fire as long as possible. I sit beside him on the bench. He smells like the woods, flowers, summer rains, like all my natural muses woven together.

He wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me to his side. “You did good, love. You’ve got fresh building materials, and revised blueprints. We’ve got our work laid out for us.”

I’m incredibly grateful for my Writing Sisters, and all the suggestions, critiques, and support they offer. I have a lot of work to do in the coming months, but I feel better about the direction I’ll take my WIP.

We all part ways tomorrow, so we still have a night to talk about writing, drink wine, eat chocolate, and enjoy the company of other wonderful writers. If you ever get a chance to get away with good writer friends, take it. It’ll do you good.

BTW, do you like blueberry muffins? Make sure you check out this month’s Meet Your Main Character blog Top 5 and see who our “blueberry muffins” are!


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Writing Retreat and Reunion

I have mere days left to plan, list, pack, and recheck said list. Just days until my reunion retreat with my writing sisters, when I get glorious, writing-filled days when I don’t have to weed, or pick monster zucchini, or weed, or mow the lawn, or weed… seems I’ve got a theme going here.

I keep wondering at the sheer odds of seven women coming together like we have, writers or not. We are all writers, some published. One sister’s debut novel came out this spring. One has a debut novel due out around Christmas. Another sounds like she’s working on final tasks before a release. Our honored writing mentor released the last book in her bestselling Door County Fudge Shop mystery series this spring, and she’s working on a new cozy mystery series involving chickens and a mischievous 12-year-old. Still, it feels like there’s something more than writing that bonds us. Writing is the catalyst, but perhaps we’ve connected because some cosmic force decided we all need each other in some way, if only to encourage one another on our life’s journeys.

In any case, I’m looking forward to spending time with my “sistahs” (and I’m including a Skype session with our sister who’s in CA because she just visited the Midwest for another mission). We’ll spend time on writing–being together puts our creative energies into overdrive–but we’ll do a lot of catching up as well.

A thud echoes behind me. What the hell can he possibly pack that’s that heavy?

“It’s called a hammock, complete with its own frame.” My Muse drops a duffel bag beside the hammock. “Blog post? Really? Are you planning to share everything about your reunion?”

Per usual, he’s leaning against the door jamb, arms crossed on his broad chest. He’s wearing his worn-white-at-the-seams jeans and a t-shirt that advertises Señor Frog’s in Cancun. Funny, I don’t remember him being there on that trip; I never made it to Señor Frog’s. Maybe he knows where I left my–

“That’s not your WIP, love.”

“Hey, I’m writing, aren’t I?” I indicate the hammock-in-a-bag. “Planning on kicking back? This is a writing reunion, emphasis on writing.”

He tucks his hands into his front pockets, exposing the sombrero-wearing frog on his shirt. “You know I won’t be the only one. Everyone else’s muses will be there, too. That’s why there’s so much creative energy when your writing sisters gather. You know that.”

“So, that gives you an excuse to slack off? I’m counting on this trip to help me focus. I need you on your game.”

He chuckles, and my subconscious fills in a “silly girl” quip from somewhere. “You know, my job is a helluva lot easier when there’s six of us in one place. The vibe of gathered writers and muses is enough to keep you on task. Besides, it’s a reunion retreat, right? You’ll be chillin’ along with your gal pals.”

True. We do some writing, though. Honest. Our mentor is there to keep us from getting too distracted. We have an agenda and a list of writing subjects to discuss, like plotting and voice. We’ve submitted pages to each other for feedback. And sure, there’s wine and chocolate, but it wouldn’t be a top-notch writing retreat without chocolate. Or wine. “I won’t have to track you down in the backyard, will I?”

He pushes away from the wall and tosses an arm around my shoulders. His scent reminds me of a bookstore—no, library–with all the promise of wonderful adventures within so many pages. “I’ll be right there with you, love.”

T-minus days and counting. If you ever have a chance to head off to a writing retreat, whether formal or just with your own writing group, take it. There’s no substitute for the opportunity to focus on writing and good friends.


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Quick Note to Writers (and Princess Bride fans)

Remember the blog I mentioned a couple weeks back? Meet Your Main Character?

We’ve got our guest blogger’s post live on the site now. Stop over and take a look!

Our guest this month is Emily Bates, blogger at BumblesBooks and debut author. Her novel, Demon’s Heart, was released last month. She’s shared a great story with us about a job she had in college. I might have to borrow pieces of it for one of my future projects…


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Meet Your Main Character–by writers, for writers

Our website is now live! Meet Your Main Character

As writers, we strive to create realistic experiences for our characters to draw our readers in. We write what we know, but often we want to write about things we don’t have first-hand knowledge of. Okay, no one I know of has ever flown on a dragon or battled an ogre, but I do know an immigration attorney and a former counterintelligence analyst. Writers can gain knowledge through research, interviews, or spending a day doing the things you have your characters do, but what if you don’t know anyone who’s ever milked a cow or moved to a whole different country on a whole different continent? What if you aren’t even sure where to go to find someone who does have the knowledge or experiences you want your character to have?

Enter the Meet Your Main Character crew. We are a group of six writers with innumerable experiences in many different areas, from growing up in South Africa to setting up orphanages to surviving a hurricane. We can help you bring authenticity to your scenes by relaying our own personal experiences. If we haven’t lived it, we can help you find someone who has.

Every month you’ll learn more about each of us and the things we have done on our life’s journey. Send us a question, and we’ll try to help. Our guest bloggers will share some of their adventures as well. We’ll also have a special page featuring contributions from a group of young writers who are great sources for insight into the lives and interests of young people making their way through junior high and beyond.

You can also follow us on Twitter at: @mymc_writers

Stop by and say hi!