Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Revise and return of the Muse #amrevising #amediting #MNwinter

I’m sitting in my writing office, my butt in a nice comfy recliner, laptop on my, well, lap. My mouse pointer hovers over the Word document my agent returned to me: Book 2 with her notes.

“G’day, love.”

“Thanks for scaring the shit outta me–not.” I try to slow my pulse. “You couldn’t use the door like usual?”

My Muse leans against the wall separating the alcove from the aforementioned door, arms crossed over his broad chest. He’s wearing wild tie-dyed sweatpants, a baja beach hoodie, and Birkenstocks–with no socks. His skin is burnished, his short blond hair sun-bleached at the edges. His slow smile deepens his dimples. “It’s cold outside.” He lifts a foot. “Forgot my boots.”

“Forgot your boots, my ass. I hope you enjoyed your walkabout in summery Aussie land, cuz it’s supposed to get nice and cold here.”

He chuckles, a deep rolling sound that makes the room feel warmer. Or maybe it’s just me. He grabs a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and settles into the recliner beside me. He smells like the beach, like sun and sand and coconut and ocean. “I did.”

“And I bet you thought about me exactly never.”

He chuckles again. Yep, pretty sure the room’s getting warmer. “Of course I thought about you, love.”

“Oh really? I have a hard time believing you were thinking about anything besides enjoying the sun and surf.”

“You got feedback from your agent on Book 2.”

“Well, if you know that, then you know I have yet another round of revision to do.” Yep, still not quite there. Pacing in the middle. The novelist’s bane.

“You make it sound like the book’s on it’s way into that drawer from which no manuscripts escape.”

“I know it’s not that bad. It just needs some tweaking. And less PDA. And less ho-hum. And more Bullitt car chases.”

“I’m going to have to stop you with that last one, love. No car chases in Book 2. And you already took out most of the PDA. Which is disappointing.”

“Right?”

“But I can see her point.”

“Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side with this.”

He sighs. “I am. But this is your ‘break away from your current publisher’ book, so your agent is right, and you know it.”

My turn to sigh. “I do. But I don’t know how I can step up the pacing in the middle without pulling more words. It’s already down to 81,000 words, which is 10,000 less that Book 1. And there’s the scene of the accident that isn’t. Without that … How do I keep up the tension? That’s part of the ramp-up to the climax.”

My Muse raises a brow. “You’ve already started working on a replacement for that scene.”

Grumble. “Yes, sort of. The replacement doesn’t address my agent’s concern, though. That that particular scene might be one too many for the purpose. My replacement scene would do the same thing, just be more, um …”

“Believable?”

I can’t stop an eye roll. “Fine, yes.”

“So, when are you planning on looking at all her comments?”

I hover the mouse pointer over the file. “This weekend. I have homework to do, though. Pulling that neck muscle a few days ago didn’t help, either. I lost two days of work.”

“Yeah, that can be a pain in the neck.”

I give him my best side-eye. “Really? That’s the best you can do?”

He chuckles. “Do you have a deadline for your homework? You know, that really isn’t homework.”

“It is. I need to do it to finish my credit by exam.” I’m starting to think it would have been easier to take the class. Then again, a couple hundred dollars for 4 credits is way better than $1400 and four months of night classes for those same 4 credits. Unless the professor decides my credit for exam submissions aren’t good enough and I’ll have to take the class anyway. That’s the risk, despite the fact I have over a decade of experience to back up my credit by exam request.

“And when do you plan on reading the rest of your agent’s feedback? You talk to her on Tuesday.”

“I know. I’ll read her feedback before then.” And I’ll have to formulate some sort of response or fix for each of her concerns. Some will be easy–less PDA. Some, not so much.

“Don’t worry, love. We’ll figure it out. If nothing else, there’s always a Bullitt car chase.”

And that’s my plan for the weekend. Considering we’ve got arctic air sitting over us for the next week or so, keeping us far below freezing, I’m pretty sure I’ll get it done. Or, mostly done.

Happy Writing, and stay warm!

Kitty throwback: Nyx napping


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Timelines, Plotlines, and Muses–oh my! #amediting

Have you ever worked on a book for … ah, years, and then, after you learn more about the craft, gone back to that book and read it? That book that you spent months–years–editing and revising and editing some more, and querying, and editing some more … Yeah, that one.

And after tucking it away for a couple years, you go back and read it, and realize that the elements of the story are all there, but the order of events needs to be shuffled. That timeline you hammered on for years needs to be blown up. Well, okay, just the whole freaking middle of the book, but still. I’ve got things pretty much rearranged, but then there’s the tweaks to the plotline.

Slam!

The water in my glass on the little end table beside my recliner ripples.

“Seriously?” I call out. “You don’t have to slam the door.”

I hear the rustling of a coat and a pair of thuds before my Muse comes around the wall separating the alcove from the outside door of my writing office. He’s wearing a purple Minnesota Vikings hoodie and black sweatpants, with thick purple socks to round out his outfit. He presses his lips together, lines creasing his forehead, hands planted on his hips.

Um … “What’s with the door slamming?”

He shakes his head before pulling a beer out of the mini-fridge and dropping into the recliner beside me with a sigh. “It’s fecking cold outside and windy.”

“Dude, it’s January in Minnesota. You’re lucky it isn’t below zero.” Actually, we did “enjoy” below zero weather before Christmas. Nothing like Mother Nature reminding us that yes, it really is winter. Like the foot and a half of snow we’ve gotten since November wasn’t enough of a reminder. “I take it you didn’t go ‘Down Under’ over the holidays.” I mean, it’s not like he has to fly on planes or anything. I think it’s like a wormhole.

He swallows some beer. “We call them ‘portals’.”

“Okay. What’s got your undies in a twist?”

He raises a brow. “How many times do you plan on going through that timeline, love, before you settle on the scene order and just write the transitions as you need them?”

“Until I’ve got all the pieces where they should be. I’ve got most of the scenes reorganized. I just need to add a few short scenes, and at least one more vignette.” I’ve got a couple spots I’m still struggling with. How many times should my MCs talk to a supporting character? I’m debating combing two of the scenes. And there are still a couple scenes I’m wondering if I should toss because they are character-development scenes, not necessarily part of the investigation.

“Do you suppose if you do remove those scenes that you could work the character development into other scenes?”

“Probably.”

He leans back in the recliner. “You’ve been over this book how many times, love?” He holds up a hand before I can answer. “I think you did the right thing by reorganizing it.”

“You suggested it.”

“Technically I inspired you to reorganize it. And I think it’s a good thing.”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming.”

He pegs me with those intense blue eyes of his. “But you have got to get this project done so you can start on Book 3.”

“I know. My agent hasn’t gotten back to me about Book 2.”

“But when she does, you should start getting the plot together for Book 3.”

“I’m well aware. You’re not planning on going on walkabout, are you?”

He says nothing for a moment. “Tell you what. I’ll be back in a couple days. I need some sun and heat.”

Well, it is the middle of summer in Australia. “I get that. I’ll manage. I’ve got my book dragon.”

“I want you to have this project ready to send to your critique group by the end of the month, love.”

“That’s the plan.”

I’ve got some time; I’m thinking my agent might get back to me on Book 2 by the middle of next month or so. I definitely want to have this project ready for critiquing before then.

Oh, and bonus fun I just learned about today. My son’s girlfriend’s family invited him to go with them on their annual trip to Texas at the end of March. It’ll be a 10-day trip (I think), and they need a cat sitter. Yippee! Since I’m a fully-remote worker, I can work from their apartment. I might have to split cat duties with my daughter, but hey, four cats–at least one cuddly one–is better than one cat who doesn’t sit on laps anymore. So, work during the day, cuddle cats and try to write at night. I’m up for that 🙂

Happy Writing!

PS: I’m having some trouble with lag on WordPress when I write posts. Any suggestions?


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Musing craft #amrevising

I open the back door to my writing office, fresh off a walk. I find walking and thinking about whatever I’m writing, whether brainstorming a new story or plotline or pondering revisions, go together well. Even if I might look a little loony if someone decided to watch me walk and talk things through.

“Well, it’s about time you came back, love.” My Muse leans on my desk, sweating bottle of water in hand.

I finish toeing off my shoes before I look up. Oh. My. His tank top–wait, muscle shirt–shows off his sculpted shoulders and biceps. The cargo shorts don’t detract at all–trust me. And he’s got that five o’clock shadow thing going, just at that rougish stage.

He raises a brow.

Oh, yeah. “You know where I was. And I didn’t see you anywhere helping figure out how to strengthen my supporting characters in Book 2.”

“And why do you suppose they aren’t quite ‘there’ yet?”

I make my way past him to the mini-fridge to grab my own water. “I don’t know. That’s the problem. It’s like I want them to be in the background, but they can’t be. Shouldn’t be. They should seem just as real as my MCs.”

“Okay, so why aren’t they?”

I drop into one of the recliners in the alcove and swallow some cool water. It’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. I thought I rounded them out a bit, but apparently not enough. She made good points, and I can see how their characters are lacking. I’m just not entirely sure how to beef them up.

“Julie?”

“I’m thinking.”

He settles into the other recliner. “You’re thinking too hard.”

I can feel him staring at me. “Stop that.”

“You know how to fix it. You agent made good suggestions.”

“Yes, she did.”

“So? What’s the problem?”

I take another sip of water to stall. What is the problem?

“You know what it is, love. Say it.”

Damn it. “I don’t want them to be the focus of the story.”

“Not quite. Try again.”

Fine. “I don’t want them to take attention away from my MC.”

He smiles, the divot in his chin deepening. “She has to share the stage, love. It’s okay for other characters to figure out the mystery.”

“Not if the story belongs to my MC.”

A momentary frown crosses his face. “You’re right, not figure it out, but they have a stake in solving the mystery.”

“They do, but their actions are limited to pushing for answers, not digging around for them. That’s the job of my MCs.”

“Okay, so how can they do more pushing for answers? And remember, they have insights, too.” He finishes his water and tosses the bottle into the “Recycle” bin. “I can bring them over for a chat.”

“Not necessary.” I consider what he’s saying. They have insights …

My Muse grins. “There you go, love. I knew you’d figure it out.”

“Maybe, but will that be enough to fix the character issues? If they push to poke around for themselves, but my MC discourages them–to keep them safe?”

“You won’t know until you try.”

That’s the struggle, isn’t it? This is my first “book 2” (I do have a sequel drafted for my police procedural, but that’s a different formula because the MCs jobs are to solve the crime). I think part of the challenge is keeping in mind that readers may not have read the first book, so as the author you have to introduce the MCs again, and let the reader know the MCs nuances and stuff. I think that’s part of the reason I resist giving the secondary characters more of the story. I want the story to be about my MCs, but they aren’t in the story by themselves; the other characters need to be just as real to the readers, not just character actors from General Casting.

So, back to the revision board. And maybe my Muse has the right idea about bringing the characters over for a chat. We’ll see. I’ve got to look through my agent’s feedback in depth this weekend (I’ve already skimmed it) and keep this convo with my Muse in mind.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


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Summer of a-Muse-ment #amrevising #amreading

“You’re hovering.”

“I’m here, love.”

I push back from my desk in my writing office and narrowly miss my Muse’s toes. “I know, and I appreciate it, but you are hovering.” I plant a hand on his solid–oh, yes, broad and solid–chest and push him back so I don’t crack my head into his chin. “Give me some space. Sheesh. Why are you hovering?”

A crooked grin eases onto his face, giving his dimple an excuse to appear. “Because you are riding a surge of creative energy, and I want to make sure you take advantage of it.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk. Today he’s got a beach bum theme going: blue board shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top sporting a hand flashing the universal “hang loose” sign. He smells like the ocean, sand and sun and coconut tanning lotion. His skin is burnished bronze, and his hair is sun-bleached on the edges. I suspect he spent some time enjoying wind and waves while I visited with my family last weekend.

“Uh-huh.” I brush past him and try to ignore the rising temperature of the room. Or is it just me? Or maybe it’s the upper-eighties temps outside–naw, the air conditioning is working pretty well. Must be one of those fabled “hot flashes”.

Yeah, let’s go with that. Wait, that means I’m, ah, …

My Muse chuckles, a deep, baritone rumbling that raises the room temp even more. “You’re only as old as you think you are.”

Dang, it’s hot in here. I focus my next steps on crossing the office to grab water from the mini-fridge. The fewer times I stumble when he’s around, the less chance his ego has to take center stage. “I want to get my revisions done and sent back to my agent by the end of the month, before the reunion.”

“You’ll have them done,” he assures me, “unless you get distracted.”

I swallow a quarter of the bottle of water before I turn toward him. “I’m really trying not to get distracted, but we have my hubby’s nephew’s wedding out in Virginia at the end of September, and oh, my god, trying to figure out the best”–and cheapest–“way to get there and back is like falling into an internet rabbit hole.” I think we spent three hours last night (on top of the three hours I spent last week putting together a spreadsheet of flights and prices for Hubs (because he likes to see everything written down; I’ve known him for over 30 years, so yes, I spent the time)) trying to determine the best way to get around out there. The Metro Lines? Do we have to rent a car? Which Metro stations have parking? When should we sightsee? When are we flying out? Which airport is better? Oh. My. Gawd. This is one reason I hate traveling.

“That’s not your only distraction, love. You have creative distractions.”

“No thanks to you.” It seems I’m riding a surge of creative energy right now, but I have to put any thoughts about next projects aside until my revision is done, which is frustrating in a lot of ways. Man, I need a writing sabbatical in a little cabin in the woods.

“You’re welcome.”

“Wait, you’re warning me about creative distractions pulling me away from my revision, and you’re smug about it?”

His grin widens. “You are receptive right now, so yes.”

“Well, put a pin in it for now. I have stuff to do this weekend, like clean and make pickles.” I hate the thought of breaking away from my writing at this point, but real life has to be handled when it has to be handled, and the house won’t clean itself (damn!).

He saunters to me and rests a hand on my shoulder, the scent of coconut tanning lotion surrounding us. “I’ll still be here, love.”

“Well, don’t hover.”

“I can’t make any promises.”

Uff-da. The worst thing about having all the creative energy is not being able to sit down and take advantage of it. Hope you are all staying cool and able to take advantage of your own creative energies.

Happy Writing!


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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!