Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Summer’s half over. Where did it go?

We’re on the second half of July already.

Wasn’t it just Memorial Day?

Why does it seem the summer is never long enough? Then again, I live in MN, so our summer weather runs from about the middle of May through the middle of September, although where I live (and with global warming) we have comfortably-warm weather from mid-April (usually, except this year when we had a blizzard in Week 2) through mid-October.

We’ve had a combination of hella hot and it-can-stop-raining-now since the end of May. For the record, this Memorial Day (last Monday in May) hit a record 91 F (about 33 C). It’s cooled off some this month (all the way down to the mid-80s, which is about average), but the combination kicks vegetation into fast-grow mode. I swear we can hear the grass growing!

Due to the deadline with my manuscript, I didn’t get my garden in until the first week of June (we like to get it in on Memorial Day weekend at the latest because our growing season is relatively short).

This week, once it stopped raining and cooled to a temperature that didn’t cause instant sweat, I ventured out to the garden. Granted, with all the rain, my plants have been struggling a bit, not to mention all that water tends to leach nutrients away.

Anyhow, here are my before pics:

The weeds weren’t as bad as I’d feared, considering I hadn’t been out to the garden in over a week (I think). One thing to note is that we use a tractor–not a lawn tractor, but a utility tractor like this one (but with a cab on it)–to till. This year, since one of the rear tires on the usual tractor developed a huge tear in the sidewall, we had to use our big tractor.

If you aren’t familiar with tractors and fieldwork, the thing to remember is the weight of the tractor will compact the soil, and thus make it tougher for plants to extend their roots. That’s why you see farmers using tractors with 4 or 6 HUGE wheels or tracs: not only does it help with traction when pulling larger implements, it spreads the weight of the tractor out so it doesn’t compact the soil as much. It’s also why farmers usually till the middle of the field first, then go around the outside perimeter last; that’s where the soil is compacted the most because the tractor turns there on every pass.

Anyway, by using the bigger tractor, the soil is compacted more (and after years of tilling with a tractor, we have some problems anyway with compaction). So, I strategically planted between the tire tracks from the tractor, which I think helps to keep the weeds down between the rows. Still, weeds.

Three hours and a couple gallons of sweat later, it looked pretty good:

Last night I actually picked our first zucchini of the season, and the handful of green beans left that some small varment (a mouse or vole, I think) didn’t munch. So, I sliced and sauted the zuke last night. There’s nothing like that first garden veggie (even if it is a zucchini ๐Ÿ˜€ )!

I tied up the tomatoes–which now have a few greenies on them–and wove the cucumber vines into the cattle gates I’m using for their climbing support. I’ve got tiny cucumbers on the vines, and more zucchini on the way. The peppers are doing their thing, and the beans, well, something smaller than a chipmunk is munching on them judging by the teethmarks in one of the surviving beans. Sigh.

On the writing front, I got my manuscript back from the line editor, and have relatively few corrections to make (yippee!). I also got another mockup of the cover. (No, I’m not going to show it until it’s done–mwahahahaha!) I’ll think about that over the weekend, along with the suggestions from my writing sisters, and give the cover person my feedback on Monday. My editor also gave me homework to do and return by the end of the month, including coming up with a teaser/hook (30 words max), a 1- to 2-sentence pitch for the book (max 50 words), and ‘highlights or aspects of the story that will appeal to readers (less than 150 words). Oh, and don’t forget the author quote used for press release.

And I thought the query and synopsis were tough!

Another step closer. I’ve got a lot going on over the next week, though, including an unexpected day at my dad’s today, an afternoon coffee meetup with one of my blogging friends tomorrow (can’t wait!), and Dad’s auction next weekend. Add working full time, weeding, and walking (because I know I’ll need the mind-space to do my homework for my editor), and my WIP (book 2) is getting very little attention. So much for a NaNo in July. Maybe August will be better; my Writing Sisters reunion is in (less than) two weeks! Nothing like a group of writers to get those creative energies charged up ๐Ÿ˜€

Here’s a quick (and yes, terrible) pic of my very own mini-panther:

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Have a great weekend!

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It doesn’t seem real #mystery #amreading

It does, but it doesn’t. It’s the “is this really happening” feeling that makes you want to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming.

I sent my edits in, looked through the new paperwork my editor sent me, and stared, in dumbfounded silence, at a list of all the things I need to do before the book comes out. Yikes.

And I finally got a release, er, not really date, more like timeframe.

My debut novel, Murder in Plane Sight, is due to be released in March, 2019.

*silence*

*looks at list of stuff to do before release*

*more silence*

Ho-ly shit. How am I going to do this and work on Book 2?

*reviews mental list of writing friends that do it and shakes head in amazement*

A few days after I sent in the latest revision of my manuscript, I got the first mockup of the cover. Wow. Granted, I had mocked up a dummy cover with my own idea, so what they sent resembled the one I cobbled together, but to actually see it, with my name and the title and everything, makes this whole thing even more real.

A pair of hands weigh my shoulders down. Strong fingers squeeze reassurance. “This is where you wanted to go, love.” My Muse, standing behind me at my writing desk, leans over me and peers at my computer screen. “Remember your ‘100 things to do before I die’ list? Publish a novel is on there. Pretty high up on the list, too, if I recall.”

Going to Hawaii is on there, too, along with Germany. Checked those off a long time ago. “I know. It just … doesn’t feel quite real yet.” I turn in my chair to look up at him. “Where have you been? It’s, like, oh-my-god hot outside. No surfing?”

He leans back on my desk beside me, hands braced on the smooth wooden top. “I thought you said you were starting a NaNo project in July. The what, third or fourth ‘first draft’ of Book 2, right? I figure I’ll get you going on that. Besides, it’s hotter than the Amazon jungle out there.”

He’s right. The humidity index where I’m at in MN right now is higher than in the Amazon. Our local news has delighted in sharing that little tidbit. “I’m still working through the outline. And did you see this list?” I shove the list of tasks at him. “How am I going to do all that?”

A crooked grin eases across his face as he sets the list aside. “You know you already have some of it done.”

“The parts I have done aren’t what worry me. It’s all the other stuff I know I have to do, like a newsletter. And a press release.” It’s a good thing I bookmarked Staci Troilo’s posts about author media kits. “I’ve been paying attention to what the other authors I know are doing. It’s kind of overwhelming to think about it all. I don’t know how they do it.”

“One step at a time, love.”

“All while I’m working on Book 2? Time is the part I’m worried about.” And getting Book 2 written, revised, and polished for publication; I know that will happen sooner than I expect, because stuff like that always does.

“You’ll do fine. I’ll be sticking around; Mr. E is helping Mae with her new series, so he’ll be busy for quite a while yet.”

Not that it ever stopped him before from going on a pub crawl with my Muse. “It just doesn’t seem real. Not yet, anyway.”

“It will soon enough, love.”

Everything is moving forward. The line edit of the manuscript is next on the list, along with finalizing the cover. I’ve got a few suggestions before that happens. Once I have a cover, I’ll feel much more comfortable starting promotional stuff. All while working on Book 2–sheesh. So, I’m thinking a six-month sabbatical in a mountain cabin or on a tropical beach–wait, mountain cabin is probably better. No way to laze about in the sun there ๐Ÿ˜€

I also have to work on my website/blog, so at some point things will start to change here. Or get monkeyed up as I try to figure out how to do it. I’ve been paying attention to various posts by my writer friends about websites, and newsletters, and media kits, so I’ll be gleaning information. Thank you ahead of time to all those authors for discovering what works and what doesn’t, and sharing that knowledge with the rest of us.

I was happy to hear the release would be in March–that’s before the Writers’ Institute next year. I’ll be there, and I’ll be able to show off a real book this time. It’s a fantastic writers’ conference; if you’ve wanted to check out a conference but still aren’t sure, you can’t go wrong with the fun in Madison (except blizzards, but on the bright side, the blizzard during this year’s conference was the first one they’d ever had, in 29 years!). Save the dates! (psst, rumor has it they’ll have a super keynote speaker next year, so get on their mailing list for updates ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Enjoy your weekend! And if your weekend is extended due to the holiday (in the US), enjoy the extra days. Stay cool and keep Writing!


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Getting closer

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I turned my manuscript in to my editor a couple weeks ago. I got her feedback this week.

And breathed a huge sigh of relief!

She liked what I did, and with a few additional tweaks, she said we could move on to the next step, which involves some marketing questions for the book, like series name (haven’t come up with one yet), cover description, author quote for press release (what?? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ), blurbs or past reviews (er, this is a debut, so need a blurb I guess), and a few other things.

Another step toward publication, an exercise in patience. It’s kinda scary in a way, knowing that sometime next year my book will be out, and people will be reading it (I hope!), and I’ll be doing stuff like signings and author panels and trying to fit Book 2 into the mix. That’s a whole lot of activity for someone who is an introvert and a homebody and working a full-time job.

And then the inevitable thought: what the hell was I thinking when I decided I wanted to get published? I never thought past holding my book in my hand and dreaming about seeing it on a bookshelf at the library, in Barnes and Noble, and on the book racks at Target.

There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into the process beyond writing a good book and finding a publisher who wants to put your book out there (for those who choose to go the traditional route). There’s platform (huh?) and marketing (ugh). There’s creating a website, author pages, social media buzz, blog tours, and on and on.

In fact, a couple of my writing/blogging friends just released their new books this month, and I’ve been following their blog tours (you might remember a post for Jacqui Murray’s new book, Born in a Treacherous Time). In fact, one of them wrote 18 different blog posts for the tour–yes, eight-teen unique posts (plus one more for me, so nineteen)! O. M. G. And there’s the newsletter thing. And email lists. And short stories/novellas to attract followers and newsletter recipients. And through all this, Book 2 needs to get drafted, revised, revised, revised, critiqued, revised some more, and ideally out to readers about a year after Book 1 is out.

Yikes! And then I read about one of my writing/blogging friends who releases a couple books a year!ย  ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

So now that I’ve gotten this far, I somehow need to keep going, and do it all faster. While still working a full-time job, tending a summer garden, and being a mom to a college freshman who is seriously anxious about going off to school (my other college student is starting his junior year–not worried about him ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Hoo-boy. I think I need to find a writing cabin somewhere and stock it with 6 months of food, water, coffee, and chocolate, with some wine (and Moon Man beer for incentive). Or, at the very least, designate an office here at home where I can hunker down and focus on writing.

Speaking of garden, I know I mentioned last week about posting some garden pics, as pathetic as they are. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, and not just gentle soaking rain, either. We had a couple of those summer downpour storms. You know, the ones where it’s like someone took a huge bucket and upended it, and the force of the rain scours any bare ground, turning it into a mobile sheet of mud.

My poor garden. And of course it didn’t dry out enough between storms for me to get in there and do anything like weed. The rain washed out nearly all of my onions, and my beets are struggling to get a foothold. The tomatoes, however, are starting to take off, so I’ll have to tie them up soon. Anyway, here ya go. It doesn’t look like much at this point except a somewhat barren, weedy, and silt-covered piece of ground.

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See, it is smaller

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Tomatoes

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My poor, sogged kale

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Another angle

The rain left all that lovely silt over everything, including the areas where I just planted dill and cilantro, so I expect I’ll have to replant those. On the bright side, both of my cucumber plants are up and growing (I thought only one would survive) and I have 3 zucchini/summer squash plants (I know, I know, I’ll have enough zucchini to feed half the town).

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Outside a Writer’s Comfort Zone

Raise your hand if you’re a writer. *hands raise*

Now, raise your hand if you don’t like crowds, or being in new places with new people, or are uncomfortable outside your home territory, or will take any opportunity to not drive to the nearest metropolitan area so you don’t have to fight city traffic, even if your favorite author is having a signing there.

*hands raise and wave*

Thought so. Writers have a tendency to be less outgoing, more focused on a smaller portion of the world at large where they are comfortable, like the hometown they grew up in or the neighborhood where they know the people living on their block. We’re introverts. Writing is a mostly solitary pursuit. I say mostly because we all know that at some point we need the help of a critique partner or a writing group.

With the advent of the Internet (Yes, there was a time when the Internet did not exist, and people had to call on a telephone that had an actual cord, or write letters by hand and mail them, or meet face to face if they wanted to communicate with each other.), it’s easier to connect with other people from the comfort of your own home.

It’s a good thing, because finding a writing group might be a challenge where you live. Finding a writing group online is much easier, and you don’t ever have to meet in person. You might not be able to if members are scattered around the world.

If your goal is to be published, and hope readers outside your immediate and extended family want to read your work (even better, to pay to read your work), there’s a lot of value in meeting people face to face. It’s called networking, and we all know the more people who know you and your writing exist, the higher the probability that someone you don’t know will want to read your work.

*din of mumbles about having to meet people rises*

Hey, if you want to go anywhere in this business, you’ve got to get your name out there. And to do that, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.

*gasps fill the air*

Yes, I’m serious. That means finding places where readers gather, like libraries and bookstores (hey, no thinking about how many books you can buy. You’re trying to convince other people to buy your book). It also means leveraging the work other writers and organizations have done to connect with people who want to read stuff in your genre, whether it’s kids’ books, poetry, or even non-fiction.

My first book isn’t due out until 2019, and I haven’t even talked to my editor yet, but I know now is the time to work on connecting with readers who might want to read my book. You know, before I’m working against deadlines.

This week I went to my first local Sisters in Crime meeting. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is a national organization of mystery writers, with local chapters around the country. I’ve known about the Twin Cities chapter for years, but I’ve never been to a meeting before this week because of that whole driving in the big city thing. Turns out the area where they meet is a nice little residential area close to Minnehaha Park (yes, that Minnehaha, the one Longfellow wrote about in the Song of Hiawatha).

The first thing that surprised me was the number of members. I’d guess there were at least thirty people there. Many of the members, like Julie Kramer and Ellen Hart, are award-winning mystery writers. Maybe some of that will rub off on me!

I don’t have a cover, or a release date, or even a for-sure title, but I know by taking advantage of these events and going to meetings, that is, getting out of my comfort zone, I’ll be laying the groundwork for marketing when I need it. The Twin Cities SinC has connections, and their name shows up on lists of library guests and other events. They have something going on every week for the next month and a half, including a huge reader/writer event coming up at the state fairgrounds, a number of guest panels at libraries, and a new event planned at a local Barnes & Noble that includes some big-name writers (no Patterson or King, but Chuck Logan and PJ Tracy, among others).

It’s not just groups like SinC, either. Any venue that supports and promote authors, like libaries and bookstores, is a link in the networking (and marketing) chain. In order to take advantage of their resources, I need to get out of my comfort zone.

Scary, yes. And even more scary to an introvert is being on a panel at a writing conference where people are watching you, and listening to you, and you have to pretend you know what this writing thing is all about. And here’s the crazy scary part: I’m presenting a session at a writers’ conference that I proposed by choice.ย 

What?!

Yes, I know that means I’ll have to speak in front of an audience. And yes, it kind of freaks me out that I sent in a proposal at all, but it’s the best writers’ conference in the upper Midwest, as far as I’m concerned.

What the hell were you thinking?

Networking.

You can’t network if you don’t get out there and meet people. Sure, you can do a lot of networking through the blog-o-sphere, Facebook groups, and other online writing groups, but what about all the people who don’t have eyes on the Internet. All. Day. Long. They exist. I’ve seen them.

It’s uncomfortable, I get it. But it’ll be beneficial to your career as a writer in the long run. Start by going to author events and signings. Maybe check around for a writers’ panel at a local venue. Get used to being out of your comfort zone. Then you can start actuallyย talking to people. Yes, it’s okay. Ask a fellow attendee what they liked about the author’s book. Ask them what they like to read. People like to talk about stuff like that.

Then talk to the author who is speaking, signing, or on a panel. Ask how they went about getting the event set up. Talk to the people who organized the event. Tell them who you are, what you write, and ask about setting up an event of your own.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you get going. It’s that first step that’s the hardest.

Rainy weekend in my neck of the woods, so I’m going to write. Really. I mean it this time.

Have a great weekend!


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High Five and Fireworks

I finish erasing lists on the white board in my writing office, leaving a single publisher. Nope. I erase it, then rewrite it bigger, with fancy 3D letters and everything. Maybe some colors. Oh, and fireworks arcs and explosions. Hmm, my board’s not quite big enough.

The door to my office whooshes open, but before I can turn, two strong hands grab my shoulders, spin me around, and my Muse gives me a bear hug that leaves me breathless, as in “Let go, too tight. Can’t breathe.”

He gives me one last squeeze and steps back. He’s wearing my favorite (on him ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) burgundy henley shirt, sleeves pushed up his forearms, and his so-well-worn jeans. “I knew you could do it, love.”

“The work’s just beginning. I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ll have to do. Hoo boy.” I turn back to the board. “How was the pub crawl? You’ve been pretty scarce. Hangover much?”

He settles an arm around my shoulders. “No hangover, but a few of the others had a rough night. Figured I’d make sure they all found their ways back to their writers.”

“For a whole day?” Something sounds suspicious. “You sure you didn’t spend some extra time with one of the gals? Moka? Latte?”

He gives me the stink-eye. “That whole pub crawl turned into something like a roaming street party. I have no idea how many muses showed up. Enough so that it was dawn before they even headed home. It was great.”

O-kay. Not my idea of fun–too many people, er, muses in one place.

“You might want to post what happened today, love.” He hands me a bottle of Moon Man. “Then we can get to work.”

He’s right. So, here’s my news:

I’ve signed a two-book deal:

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Woo-hoo! High fives all around! Happy dance! graphics-snoopy-360370

There will be a lot of work in the coming months. Right now, the estimated release for my first book is 2019. I’ll be trying to do all those things authors are supposed to do over the next months. Yikes!

It’s still sinking in. Whew! The journey’s not over, but it’s getting even more interesting. ๐Ÿ˜€

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope your muses made it home ๐Ÿ˜€