Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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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9th annual Writing Sisters Reunion #amwriting #amediting

Crystal River

“Come on. I asked you, and you said you would, and I quote, ‘be happy to write your post’.”

“That was before …”

“Uh-uh. Nope. No excuses. We have an agreement.”

“Not part of my job description, love.”

“It falls under the ‘and other duties as required’ clause.”

I give my writer my best narrowed-eyes look. “On one condition.”

“No conditions. You know damn well I’m trying to be productive, even if it’s being in a critique discussion with the rest of my Writing Sisters.” My writer plants her fists on her hips. “What did you do besides float down the river yesterday?” she asks in a tone of suspicion.

“I relaxed.” And a little recreation, but I’m not inclined to mention that. So what if I got caught up in a game of Frisbee golf? “Besides, you went on an outing, too.”

She narrows her eyes at me and raises a brow. “We went to a historical house-slash-museum.”

I allow an eye-roll. “Because you write historical fiction, right?”

“No, because it was an activity, it was interesting, and what if I do decide to write something historical?” She purses her lips. “C’mon. I work, and you write my blog post. I’m working on my writing.”

Sometimes I can’t resist yanking her chain. “I haven’t seen a whole lot of writing so far, love.”

“You know how this works. We go over everyone’s stuff. Today is my turn. Besides, we always whip up creative energy when we get together. I’ll be charged up by this afternoon when we have our writing time.” She adds a finger wag. “And I’m expecting you to be available, not off on some kayak down the river.”

I have to smile. Gods, I love when she gets fired up like this. It’s a special kind of energy those eight women wind up, even if one of them is connecting through whatever video chat thing they have going. “Of course I’ll be available, love.”

“And you’ll write my blog post?”

I toss an arm around her shoulders. “You know I will, as long as you are working.”

“Great!” She hands me her computer. “Here you go. I’m going to go for a run before breakfast.”

The ladies had a great session yesterday, from what the other muses tell me, so I’m not too worried. I’d better get another game of golf in before they start up today. Keep writing!

Tibbers and Nyx


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Virtual Fellowship #amwriting #amediting

My Muse closes the door to my writing office with a quiet snick. Today he looks like a man on a mission–in the Bahamas. Red and white board shorts clash with a bright green T-shirt calling out Adelaide, Australia, with various sea creatures spelling out the name of the city. His flip-flops snap with each step. Nice calves. Nicer chest.

“I see you’re typing up a storm, love,” he says, sarcasm thick.

Yep. Me and my blank screen are going for the record here. “What’s with the T-shirt? Couldn’t find one that said ‘I went surfing back home and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?'”

He grabs a chair and straddles it, arms crossed on the backrest. “Happy day to you, too.”

I focus on my screen. “You know, you could have hung out here during our virtual writing retreat.” I would have liked the company, but I’m not going to tell him that.

“Sure, I could have.”

I feel his brilliant blue gaze drilling into me. I resist the urge to glare back.

“Next year, love.”

I take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I had a great virtual retreat with my writing sisters. We were able to help each other with plotting, characters, and all those other pesky bits we run into, like inciting incidents and starting points.

Virtual is great, because you can feel like you’re all in a group, but it’s not the same as getting together at the B&B in Wisconsin, where we can really stir up the creative energies. Damn pandemic.

“Hey, if it makes you feel any better, the muses didn’t gather, either.” He rests his chin on his folded arms, looking far more innocent that I know he must be. “We could have, you know.”

“Uh-huh.” That surge of creative energy that buoys me after our reunions was replaced this time by a sort of grief, like I had lost a piece of a beloved collection. “I miss getting together with them. I miss the Inn and the river out back and the labyrinth and meeting at that cafe in Waupaca. Having chocolate and a glass of wine by myself … There was something missing.” Seven other someones, to be exact.

“I know, love. Focus on next year.” He gets up and heads to the wall calendar, where he flips to next August. “Next year’s reunion will be here before you know it.” He drops the pages and returns to the desk. “You guys have a virtual group chat every week, now every other week. It’s not like you don’t see them very often.”

I lean back in my chair. “I know. It’s just … this year has been so crazy.”

He looms over me. “Really, love? You’re just getting that now?” He rests a hip on my desk beside me. “You told your writing sisters what your goal is for next year’s reunion. You will have Book 2 done and either ready to submit or submitted. You’re doing good on the second revision. And you have a good plan for the other project. So get back to that second revision and finish it so you can work on the other project.

“In other words, focus.” He taps my forehead. “Suck it up, and get writing.”

“I have homework.”

“And?” he asks. “It’s writing. That’s what you do. The more you write, the faster the time will go, and pretty soon you’ll be on your way to the inn to meet up with them for your next reunion.”

He’s right, of course. I just need time to collect my scattered focus. Next week I’ll be back in the swing of things.

Man, one month of summer left already. I’ve done one batch of pickles, and I’ll have to do another one tonight, along with some green beans. I knew I’d have a lot of beans, but holy cow! Hubs reminded me that pickled green beans are pretty tasty, so I’ll add that to my pickling session later.

Hope you all are maintaining some semblance of sanity and staying safe.

Happy Writing!


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Writing Sisters Reunion–take #6

gazebo

View from the gazebo, Crystal River Inn

G’day all! It’s the first weekend in August, and Julie promised if I wrote her blog post today, she would work. Write, that is.

So far, I haven’t seen much writing going on. However, I have seen a lot of creative energy building up. So much the better. The other Muses don’t seem quite as frustrated as I’ve been, trying to get my writer to work.

Granted, Julie has loaded her calender a bit heavy this summer. I’ve been trying to convince her to take a break, spend some time away to write, but as usual, she resists. Something about “real life” and things like her job.

So every year I wait for this opportunity to ramp up my writer’s energy. They landed at this quaint B&B three years ago, and the energy of the river out back and the quiet setting make my job as a Muse a hell of a lot easier.

“I hope you’re writing my blog post.”

And now she decides to talk to me. “That was our deal, love. You write, I’ll do your blog post. So why are you not writing?”

“Did you hang out at the lake with us last night? Because we sure spent a lot of time talking about writing when it was supposed to be a break.”

View from the Blues Cruise

I debate whether to tell her. It was supposed to be a break from their critique circle, but four hours is a long time to listen to a very loud band below deck. If they hadn’t talked about writing, I would have been worried.

Besides, I wanted to hear the band. FYI, not my preferred type of music. “So what if I was, love? After the day you had in the critique circle, I figured I deserved a break, too.”

Still on the cruise as twilight rises.

My writer drops into a nearby chair. “It was a good session.”

She’s right. Her Writing Sisters were able to point out the things I’ve been trying to get her to see. It is so frustrating when she doesn’t listen to me or understand what I’m trying to tell her. Then again, she’s been distracted with all the stuff for her book–the bookstore appearances, the book fairs, and now the workshop for her Sisters in Crime meeting this coming week.

“Does this mean you are going to write today, love?”

She gets up to open the door to a screened-in porch that faces the river, letting in the song of the water. “I have to revise everything I’ve written so far.”

“It’s called writing.”

“I know, I know.” She blows out a breath. “When am I going to get my workshop done?” She shakes her head. “No, I’m going to work on book 2 today, not the workshop.”

“Good.”

“Did you find a good spot to hang out? They took the sitting log out from the river.”

The log that extended over the river is gone.

“Don’t worry about me. You focus on your writing, love. I’m around.”

She stands, turns to leave, then looks back. “Don’t forget the picture of Zoey.”

Cats. Every writer has them, it seems. “I won’t.”

Every year she does this, gets energized. The trick is keeping the energy going when she leaves.


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A Muse break

“This one?”

“Is it the one at Once Upon a Crime? The one Meg took?”

“You know, you could come over here and look, love.”

“I’m doing my homework.” My writer, sitting across the office in one of the recliners, glances up from her notebook. “I don’t care. Just pick one. I’m trying to get this done, which is the whole point of you doing my blog post, remember?”

Bloody hell. Fine. “Then don’t complain if it’s the wrong one.” There. “You know, you should have had more books on the table.”

OUAC 2

Author signing at Once Upon a Crime bookstore

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

All in all, she said the event went well, even if she didn’t know beforehand the bookstore sells the books on a consignment basis instead of ordering them ahead of time. I tried to tell her, but she didn’t listen. Luckily she had a bunch of books in her car. She came home with no books, and reveled in her fortune for the rest of the day. Not much writing got done despite my efforts.

“What are you writing?”

“If you want to know, you could write the post yourself, love.”

She shakes her head and puts her headphones on.

As frustrating as it’s been to get her settled enough to write again, she’s putting in some nice effort. I keep telling her she has to focus more. If things were up to me, she would go away to a quiet cabin somewhere for a week, where I could really work on her. There is a place I put on her radar. Will she take my suggestion? Who the hell knows.

Of course, when I look up to check on her, she’s watching me instead of writing. Cute, but not productive. “Focus, love.”

She slides one headphone off. “What?”

“You know exactly what. Get your homework done.”

She sticks out her tongue before sliding the headphone back into place. At least she’s writing. When she declared she was going to take an online writing class, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea. I mean, she’s got a book to write, and a class would distract her.

No worries. Julie has been far more focused because, she says, the class is helping her write the infamous Book 2. And it’s with her writing teacher.

Thank the gods. I was considering pushing her into that urban fantasy again. And no, that has nothing to do with getting a cameo. We Muses work our magic away from the spotlight.

But it would be kinda fun to see what she comes up with.

“Don’t forget to put a picture of Zoey at the end.”

“I’ve got it, love. Finish your homework.” Which might be a challenge over the next months since her kids are home from college for the summer. Maybe I can get her to repurpose her son’s room sooner rather than later. And her book promo stuff. I miss the days when all my writer had to do was write.

zoey couch2

“Did you put in a picture of Zoey?”

Sigh. “Yes, love. Get back to work.”