Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Plans? Just toss them into the bin #amediting

Due to circumstances being what they are these days, the Left Coast Crime conference, after one day of fun, was cancelled.

On the bright side, I did get to participate in my panel with three other awesome authors and a great moderator. I also met some fun people, including a pair of friends who met at an LCC conference and have been going every year since (Hi Rose and Merrill!) I also met a woman who used to work for the company that publishes aircraft maintenance manuals and another who used to track paperwork in aviation.

After the first day, however, due to this whole virus business (and the local officials putting out an official “recommendation” that events of over 250 people be cancelled), LCC 2020 in San Diego was shut down, resulting in some scrambling to get back home.

Bummer. Even more of a bummer was the bookstore that was supposed to sell my book (according to my information) didn’t send anyone to actually sell books. They had tables set up (under sheets) with books, but nobody to actually take money.

Seriously? So I had a number of people ask about buying my book, and since I anticipated they (the bookstore) would be there and sell it, I didn’t send books or bring books to sell on consignment. All I could do was give people my bookmark, which has a QR code that takes them directly to Amazon and one that takes them to my website, and suggest they buy it there.

I got to meet other authors, like Kellye Garrett, Matt Goldman, and William Kent Kreuger, but I didn’t get to meet with my blogging buddy, Betsy. That was probably the most disappointing part of the trip.

The way things are going, it feels like Mother Nature is trying to do her part in reducing the abuse to our environment. Kinda like, “Hey, you’re not taking this climate change stuff you set into motion seriously, so here you go. Chew on this for awhile.”

Anyway, the lastest news is that the writers’ festival for next weekend (I was scheduled to do a workshop) has been postponed until the fall, and the Writers’ Institute has also been postponed. Sheesh. I get it, but part of me still thinks there is some overreaction going on. I mean, we don’t do this when we have a measles outbreak, or a bad flu season, or when the seasonal “crud” goes around.

Anyway, at least people are more conscious of their personal hygiene. It’s like Mom always said: WASH YOUR HANDS.

Stay safe, everyone. Stay healthy. Stay calm and wash your hands.


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Spring ahead into the fray #amwriting #amreading #mnweather

Maybe you’ve noticed I like to mention the weather on a regular basis. Part of that is the Minnesotan in me. Weather plays a pretty big role in our day-to-day business, especially in the winter. Now that Spring, my favorite season, is on its way, I’m starting to feel the pull of the outdoors in a big way.

Image by Dana White from Pixabay

This weekend is predicted to be close to 60 degrees F. Woo-hoo! Happy dance (but carefully in a dry spot, because EVERYTHING is pretty mucky).

My seeds haven’t started to sprout yet, but that might be because it’s a bit cool in the house. I don’t use warming pads, but I’m reconsidering that this year since we aren’t running the pellet stove/corn burner, which happens to be located near the seed starting station.

Walks are on the agenda for this weekend, among the other tasks of preparing for my trip to Left Coast Crime in San Diego and book marketing stuff like emailing libraries and bookstores and asking if they would consider an author event. And writing. That’s always on my list, but sometimes …

This next week will be filled with subbing at the library (last time for a while, I think, or at least until summer), our Sisters in Crime monthly meeting, and a flight from MSP to SAN. Then I get to enjoy a mystery conference with lots of other writers and readers. The weekend after I get back I have a book fair where I’m giving an hour-long workshop on writing mysteries. It’s at the end of the day, though, so we’ll see how many stick around for that.

I am looking forward to meeting one of the authors I love, another whom I need to ask to do a presentation at one of our meetings, and others I have met but haven’t seen for a while. Oh, and the weather!

I will, however, miss the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI this year. Not because anything overlaps, but because I can only manage one conference a year. I didn’t expect to miss it as much as I do. I think that’s what happens when an event becomes like a family reunion, where you get to see all those people you only see that one time each year, but look forward to enjoying the time you’re there with them.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but if you have an opportunity to go to a writers’ conference, go. Go to a conference at least once, whether it’s close or a state away. Or, hey, you could always come to the Writers’ Institute. This year I’m going to miss Jess Lourey as a keynote speaker. She grew up twenty miles from where I did.

And, you could meet my awesome writing teacher there! Her latest Door County Fudge Shop mystery just came out this week! I’m proud to say I helped brainstorm for Deadly Fudge Divas. There’s nothing quite like seven writers helping one of their own figure out the crime and plot of a whodunit.

I’m off to get organized for my busy week, but intend to squeeze in a few walks and some revising on Book 2, as well as my next class assignment. Sheesh. I think I’m going to try to get away for a personal writing retreat this year, maybe at my dad’s when he goes on his cruise with his brother, but maybe someplace else less, um, urban. More expensive, but better location.

Happy Writing! For those in the US, it’s spring forward weekend. Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead!


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Back in the flow — sort of #amwriting

Last weekend’s writing conference was a blast, even if it was busy for me, with panels and presentations and one-on-one meetings with other writers. As an introvert, that sort of event, even if it is a wonderful meeting of writers doing writerly things and talking everything writing, is draining. On the other side of it, though, is the sheer amount of creative energy that coalesces at these events. I think it has a lot to do with all those muses getting together. It’s like a muse convention.

In any case, that creative energy has clung to me, and I have started writing again. Nothing major, but it’s a start. Right now I’m writing longhand, because I think that encourages the process somehow. And I can feel a sort of relief as I’m writing again. It’s like I get anxious when I don’t write for too long.

Then again, maybe that anxiety has to do with the blizzard we had this week, with around 5 inches of heavy wet snow. And damn it, the grass was just starting to turn green and the trees are starting to bud. Ugh. And now it melts. So, three inches of slushy snow + gravel driveway = almost impassable even with 4WD. I hope things dry out a bit by the time I go back to work on Monday.

In the meantime, I have the weekend slated for Easter entertaining preparation (read: spring cleaning). Nothing like the thought of relatives coming over to kick off a frenzy of cobweb chasing and dust bunny wrangling. But what better way to put off cleaning than to sit down and write?

I open the door to my writing office and discover the light is already on. And guess who is chilling behind my desk?

“It’s about time, love. I thought you would be a bit more industrious after the conference.” My Muse pulls his feet off my desk and exits my chair, sweeping an arm in its direction. “I warmed it up for you.” The smirk on his face tells me he probably did more than warm it up. I’d better check for whoopi cushions or tacks.

“Would I do that to you?” He sits on a corner of the desk, one leg dangling. His dark denim jeans, white t-shirt, and flannel shirt in the traditional red and black checkerboard pattern, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, makes me wonder what he’s up to. It’s like he’s preparing for a wilderness tour. Not that I’m complaining. Nope. Not complaining about the rugged look at all. I should be thankful there is no fedora or bullwhip in sight.

“Really, love? Why would I be up to anything but nurturing your creativity?” His crooked smile tells me I’m more right than I hoped.

“Uh-huh. Like you and all those other muses at the conference didn’t swap ‘how to get your writer’s butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard’ stories? I’m sure you have a few new ideas.”

“I do. But I won’t use them unless I have to. You seem to be getting your stride back. Good job.”

“Don’t get too excited. You know I have to get ready for Easter.”

“Yes, but you’re writing again. And you set yourself up to be accountable with your project.”

What I suspect he didn’t say was something about being disappointed that being accountable to him isn’t enough. “You know, you are really good at your job. It’s just … I need someone who can help me work through the process again.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been helping writers work through the process?”

Honestly, I’m afraid to ask. With my luck he probably worked with Dante. Probably gave the man the idea for the circles of Hell. “No, but I’m good with that. Not knowing. I’ll be diving in to that after Easter. Promise.”

He studies me with those blue eyes of his. The room is getting warmer. I swear it is. His eyes narrow. “Good. I’m going to hold you to that, love.”

Ahh, yeah. O-kay. Anyway …

This weekend focusing on a much-needed, long-delayed bout of spring cleaning. Despite the three inches of rapidly-melting slush outside. Ick. Just when everything had finally dried out, we get this. Winter, you made your point, now go on vacation until, like, Christmas. Okay, maybe Thanksgiving. Just go away.

Have a wonderful writing week!

 


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Another awesome conference! #UWWriters #writingcommunity #amwriting

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Whew! What a weekend! I’m here in Mad City, Wisconsin for the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute. The conference has gotten so popular that it now runs from Thursday morning through Sunday noon. And there is plenty of great stuff to go around. First, though, a well-deserved round of applause to Laurie Scheer and her team of tireless minions–er, assistants who help organize and run this conference.

(yes, you can say it: Julie takes lousy pictures.)

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Laurie Scheer welcomes writers to the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute

One of the keynote speakers this year was Jane Friedman, who spoke about writing for love and money, and about the myth of the “starving artist”. She shared the stories of various artists who managed to combine their creativity and business models into successful careers, such as Jim Henson and Alain de Botton. The key to success: use creativity to find more readers, because as more people demand your work, the more your writing (business) will grow.

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

 

The following day Jennie Nash was our keynote speaker. She shared three reasons authors give for writing a book. Writing a book has a high emotional cost, and low ROI (return on investment), so every author she and her team work with over at Author Accelerator are presented with the question: Why write a book? The answers boil down to these: to find and claim your voice (which may have been suppressed in the past), to influence other people or make an impact, or to write a book before reaching those pearly gates. And ultimately, “writers gotta write”. Find the reason that speaks to you and tap into that energy.

Jennie nash

Jennie Nash

So many great sessions, so little time. I got to the conference on Thursday and caught three sessions. One was about a digital brand cheat sheet, presented by a high-energy social media influencer. She showed us the potential of social media to reach far beyond your family and friends.

Another session explained how bookstores–at least independent ones–go about decided what books to stock, and the best ways for writers to succeed in getting books on their shelves. It comes down to Fit–is your book a fit for that store, Timing–is the store ready to pull in new books, and Approach–suggestions on how to approach a bookstore about carrying your book and the things to accomplish beforehand (like ISBN numbers and early reviews).

An agent shared the biggest pitfalls writers make while revising their stories, starting with the familiar “starting the story in the wrong place.” Other things to watch for include characters that are not fully formed on the page, a lack of a physical sense of setting, raising stakes, and not following through on your promise to the reader (what is the story you are setting in motion). These things can be spotted by critique partners and beta readers, so the moral of the story: you can’t do it all on your own.

I popped into a session about author websites, which gave a lot of the same information Dan Blank did in his author website video series (check out his WeGrowMedia site and sign up for his newsletter. Really. If nothing else, his kids are cute 😀 ). Another session listed ways to “bring back the thrill” of your writing; making it fun again. The ten points included giving yourself easy goals and rewards for your accomplishments (and yes, a piece of good chocolate or a latte counts 😀 ), playing with your reader by inserting inside jokes (case in point: R. R. Campbell used the names of the universities in his books for the jokes, and no, I’m not going to tell you–mwahahahaha), listening to your characters and what they want to do, and surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities and encourage you. Finally, remember you are competing against no one–you are the only one who can tell your story.

Good stuff. I participated on a panel about writing books in a busy life, where we shared our own strategies and offered ideas on how other writers could carve out that time to write. A number of attendees found me later to express their appreciation for the panel, because it gave them some direction on how they could overcome the excuses of not having time to write. And yes, I learned a few things myself. I’m sure my Muse will remind me the next time I complain. 😀

I presented two sessions, one on “Setting as a Character”, which had a full room. I hope the writers got something out of the session. It was my first of the conference, and somehow I ended up with a lot of time left over. Hmm. My second session, about point of view, was much less attended, but one of the other sessions about outlining was very popular (I know it was, because some writers spoke to me before the session about wanting to sit in, but they also wanted to sit in on the outlining session).

The highlight of my experience, though–besides getting to see some of my Writing Sisters–was the Success Panel, where authors who have utilized the WI or Write-by-the-Lake or other writing programs from UW-Continuing Studies are now newly-published or have a new book out. Check us out.

success panel full_cr

Success Panel 2019

The closing ceremony is Sunday, when we wrap up the conference. The energy generated by so many writers and creative people infuses the atmosphere here. It always amazes me how wonderful the writing community is. We try to help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. And every year I encounter writers who are attending for the first time, and see their wonder at these welcoming arms.

There is a reason the Writers’ Institute is listed as one of the top writing conferences in the country. And every year I have to agree. It has once again recharged my creative energies and given me lots of ideas on how to approach aspects of my journey as a published author, including wielding social media tools and focusing on “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”.

If you have a writing conference on your wish list, take a look at this one for next year. You won’t be disappointed!

zoey1


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No rest for the writer #amwriting #writers

FIRST order of business: A huge hearty THANK YOU to everyone who hosted me for my book release blog tour! You were all great, and busy–holy cow, I think there were three blog tours running at the same time. Bravo and thank you to all those who stopped by mine and the other tours!

Woo-hoo! Finally the weekend! Kids are at school, the weather is spring-like, and I can relax and unwind from–

“A-hem.”

Damn. He’s behind me, isn’t he. Good thing I decided not to do my version of the Snoopy dance.

“Like I haven’t seen it before, love. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.”

Well, now I don’t want to do it. I turn. Sure enough, my Muse is giving me the “are you quite finished” look. “What?”

He leans against the desk in my writing office, all rugged eye candy, especially with those fine-fitting jeans and his burgundy henley, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. He crosses those sinewy arms, which just pulls my gaze to his broad chest.

“You’re not usually so blatant about that, love.”

Damn again. I force myself to focus on his face, with the dimple in his chin and that bare shadow from five o’clock. And those blue eyes …

“Hey,” he barks as he snaps his fingers. “Focus.”

I shake my head to shuffle my thoughts. That was weird.

“Not really.”

“Would you stop that?” I’d feel better if he couldn’t read all my thoughts. Especially those thoughts.

He chuckles, and the room warms. Or maybe it’s just me. “I’m your Muse, love. And it’s flattering.” He raises a finger. “But you need to focus. You have stuff to do before you leave next week.”

“I know. I know. I just finished the blog tour. I think it went pretty well.” Now to catch up on all those other blogs I didn’t get to. Not sure I’ll ever catch up at this rate. “Speaking of, I hope you and Mr. E got your pub crawling done for a while.” I have to get moving on Book 2. For the eighth time.

He smiles that crooked smile that makes the room get even warmer. “You have other priorities this week. Sounds like it’s going to be a grand gathering this year.”

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April 4-7   Register now, because it’ll be a blast!

Yes! I can’t wait! There is something about being around all those other writers at the conference that stirs up creative energy.

“And you need to get your presentations put together.”

Um. Yeah. “You really know how to crash a weekend vibe.” At least he didn’t remind me of …

“You have cleaning on your list.” He holds up a piece of paper–where did he snag my list from? “Oh, and that can’t wait.” He ticks off an item. “This can wait, but you better do this one this weekend.”

“Where the hell did you get my list? And which one?”

“The dreaded ‘clean the refrigerator’ one.” He sets the list on the desk beside him. “So, can we get the presentations done tomorrow? Then you have the whole next day to clean.”

Oh joy.

This year will be a busy one at the Writers’ Institute, now that I have a real book I can sell at the book sale. And two presentations. And two panels. So, I’ll be getting further behind in my quest to catch up on reading blogs. Next week’s post will go live a day later than usual so I can get all the good stuff in from the big days at the conference. And it’s all good stuff 😀

Enjoy your weekend!

zoey chair

Does this chair make me look fat?