Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Good intentions gone where? Take 2

In case you were wondering (okay, you weren’t wondering, but I’ll tell you anyway), I’m keeping up with my NaNoWriMo quotas. I’m actually a little ahead, so I’ve got a bit of a cushion.

No thanks to my Muse. Boy, when I see him again …

My writing office door whooshes open, and my Muse makes his entrance complete with Ghirardelli chocolates in one hand and Schell’s Firebrick lager in the other. What? No Moon Man?

He’s wearing the burgundy Henley shirt I so love, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. Well-worn jeans–in every sense of the adjective–complete the ensemble. He deposits the treats on my desk and sets a hip on a corner, flashes a lopsided smile. “Before you ask, love, no, I didn’t bring Moon Man. I’m saving that for when you hit fifty thousand words. How’s it going?”

Ahem. “Fine, no thanks to you.”

“Me?” he says, all innocent-like. “You do remember the part where I hit you with a brilliant seed for an urban fantasy, right? Got your creative fires lit.”

I plant fists on my hips, remember the disaster I avoided, and try to stay indignant. “Yeah. You gave me the first five lines. That’s it. And guess what? I managed about 7500 words before I gave up and went back to Book 2.” I’m counting those 7500 words, damn it. “Don’t do that again.”

His eyes widen. “What do you mean?”

I need time to tumble a novel-length idea around in the ol’ noggin. “I told you I hadn’t thought about that story AT ALL. At the very least I need a direction. Hell, I didn’t have a story goal. I didn’t even have a name for my main character when I started. Where was I supposed to take the characters? I had no idea, and day one of NaNo is so not the time to jump into a story like that.”

I’m fired up now. “I tried. For four days I tried to come up with some sort of plot, something besides a character without a name and the first five lines.”

“Yeah, you did. And you wrote scenes for that story for those four days.”

“No. I wrote three versions of the same freaking scene.”

“You wrote five scenes, love. And got some backstory put together.” He waves a finger at me. “You named the main character and her best friend. And you got as far as the mysterious-but-handsome stranger.”

“Not the point.” I have to pace. “I can’t believe I listened to you. I can’t believe you did that to me.”

He stands and blocks my path. “Are you blaming me for getting you fired up to write? What part of Muse with a capital ‘M’ don’t you understand? It’s my job, love.”

“I’ve got two stories to write. One is book 2, the other is my rural mystery.” I shake my head. Frustration tightens my shoulders until the back of my neck aches. “Why couldn’t you hit me with a brainstorm about those stories instead of something completely different? I could’ve spent four more days on the stuff I’ve got some sort of a road map for.”

“Because you were already spinning your wheels on those. I knocked you loose, didn’t I? That’s what you needed.” He rocks on his heels, arms crossed on his oh-so-fine chest. “You’re rolling fine now, aren’t you?”

Grrr. He’s right, but if I tell him, how much worse will he get? I mean, he already thinks pretty highly of himself. Then again, …

“Julie?”

“Yes, fine, I’m rolling.” I throw my hands up. “There. Happy?”

His grin brightens. “Yep.”

“Don’t hurt yourself patting your own back. I’m at the end of the section I’ve got laid out, so you’re going to have to stick around to help me. And no urban fantasy stuff.” Although I will keep that story around. I’ll figure out the rest of it. Eventually.

He drops an arm around my shoulders. “You take all the fun out of it, love, but I’ve got you covered.”

Uh-huh. Anyway …

It’s past halfway for NaNo, and I’m doing okay. Planning for progress this weekend, since next week is Thanksgiving already. Man, I cannot believe how time is flying this year! A long weekend next week, so hopefully I can get within spitting distance of 50k. The book won’t be done–it usually takes me six weeks to complete a draft–but 50k is a pretty solid chunk of it. Then set that aside and work on my other story.

Yep, my Muse got the fire going. Man, that creative burn sure feels good!

Have a great weekend, and keep writing!

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Jumping Genres

Please welcome my good blogging friend, D. Wallace Peach. Besides having a wonderful blog where she shares poetry, short prose from writing prompts, and peeks into visits with her grandson, she’s a prolific fantasy/sci-fi author. Since she writes for the adult market, I wondered why she chose to write a children’s book, so I invited her to stop by and shed some light on the subject. Take it away, Diana!

Available in Print: USA, UK, Canada, India

Julie asked me what possessed a writer of adult fantasy and sci-fi books to suddenly write and illustrate a children’s book.

The answer isn’t quite straight-forward, but it’s not that complicated either. I never set out with a children’s book in mind, but sometimes the ingredients come together and it’s a matter of timing more than intent.

The main reason is Tornado Boy.

Tornado Boy is 4 years old, and he’s a burgeoning author. He dictates stories to his parents—mostly science fiction adventures on the planet Gorgon where the Gloobs are shooting lasers at the bad Pooglas but not at the good Pooglas who are trying to save the Rainbow Gems from the witch. It’s a complex story with a convoluted plot, but if you’re 4, it makes perfect sense.

His mom and dad dutifully write down the EXACT words, or they’ll get in trouble. Then, they add a few supervised illustrations. The stories are rolled into scrolls and presented to Grammy (me) tied with a ribbon. A public reading and celebration ensue.

Well one day, I told Tornado Boy that I too had written a story. (I had a children’s story in verse that I’d written for the blog years ago.) The kid was astonished. I dug it up and read to him. Like a literary agent, he was thoroughly unimpressed. Unlike a literary agent, he told me why: “There aren’t any pictures, Grammy.”

Ah, well, I used to dabble with acrylics… amateur, but kid’s books come with all sorts of illustrations. As luck would have it, the last adult fantasy series had burned me out, and I’d planned to take a break for the summer and do something different.

… the ingredients start coming together… timing was right…

Three months later I have 24 little paintings spread across my window sills and a Tornado-Boy-approved book.

Blurb:

Grumpy Ana Goblyn is sour, dour, and cranky. Her lips droop in a frown. She’s bored with every place and person in her friendly town. With the help of her father, she builds a spaceship and travels to a soggy planet where she meets her perfect monster playmates. But there’s a problem! The monsters see her grouchy frown and think she’s a monster. In this children’s space adventure, Ana discovers that her attitude affects her happiness, and she can change it if she chooses.

About the Author:

D. Wallace Peach is a writer of grown-up fantasy and science fiction, but she’s also a grandmother who treks to the Gnome Forest hunting rainbow gems with grandson Revel. They keep an eye out for purple baby dragons skritching in the Dragonwood and gather gold buried around the magical tree of mystery.

Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters is her first children’s book. More to come!

Links:

Blog – Myths of the Mirror
Book Blog – D. Wallace Peach Books
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter – @dwallacepeach


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And then it hit me

BAM! A brand new, never-before-imagined idea blasts through my brain.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Seriously? Is this real?

My Muse straightens to his full six foot-two height. If he leans forward, I think our foreheads would collide. “You have a problem with this, love?”

The storm is still rampant in my brain. Quick, I need a notebook. Damn. “Well, yeah. I mean, I should be working on Book 2. It’s NaNo, and my opportunity to re-draft …”

He rests a hand on my shoulder. “And how’s that been working for you?”

“Ahh, not well. I’m still not feeling it, but it’s only the first week.”

“Right. So, here you go.”

I shake my head and retreat to pace my writing office instead. “It’s a whole different genre. I haven’t written urban fantasy before. My agent doesn’t rep urban fantasy; the only fiction she reps is mystery. That’s a whole month of working on something that isn’t a genre my agent could rep. If I’m not working on Book 2, I should at least be working on my rural mystery.”

My Muse leans back against my desk, arms crossed on his oh-so-fine chest. “Uh-huh. You’ve been mulling that one for years. And you wrote that Irish contemporary fantasy. Some would call that urban.”

“Only because it wasn’t epic or traditional fantasy. I’ve still got an epic fantasy book I need to finish.” I can’t believe this. “I can’t spend thirty days writing something I haven’t thought about before. I don’t even know where I’d go with it. I’m not a pantser. At the very least I have to noodle on it for a while before I start writing anything. That’s thirty days I could–should–be working on Book 2, or my other mystery.”

“Other writers who write multiple genres often have multiple agents for the different genres. You know, a romance writer who also writes mysteries or fantasy. They have one agent for the romances and one for mysteries.”

I stop. Stare at him. “Not the point. It’s THIRTY FREAKING DAYS. I need to work on—”

“Don’t raise your voice, love. I’m standing right here.”

“Have you seen the urban fantasy market? You can’t go anywhere without tripping over a book about were-whatevers, or vampires, or gargoyles, or dragon-shifters, or hell, angels and demons. It’s saturated.”

“Uh-huh. And how far can you go before you hit a wall of mysteries? It’s the second biggest genre behind romance.”

“But there’s a ton of subgenres in mystery. Crime, noir, historical, cozy, detective, police procedural, oh my gawd. Lots of people read mysteries.” I start pacing again. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“You feel it though, don’t you? That pull. That burn to write. I know you do, love.”

Damn it. I hate it when he’s right. “That’s THIRTY DAYS I won’t be spending on the stuff I should be writing.”

He raises a finger. “Aha. Did you hear yourself? You said ‘should’ be writing. You should be saying ‘need’ to write. Hear the difference? Which story do you need to write?”

I shake my head. “The big thing now is diverse characters. I don’t write diverse, unless  you count strong female protagonists in non-traditional careers.”

“It’s got potential, love.”

I stop again, hands out as if offering my last suggestion. “I don’t even know what the freaking story is. I’ve got the first few lines. That’s it. I have no idea what happens next. I don’t even know who the main character is, much less the supporting actors or even the story goal. And first person POV? What the hell are you doing to me? I’ve got a contract obligation for Book 2.”

“I’m getting you excited for your project.”

I can’t spend thirty days writing something I have never thought about until just now.” Where’s my Night Fury conscience? Wait, no, where’s my book dragon? She can help me push back. Except she’d probably agree with him. “C’mon, I work full-time, plus sub at the library, plus the whole gotta-take-care-of-the-house thing before it turns into a hovel. I can NOT believe you’re doing this to me.”

He chuckles. I suppress an urge to slap that grin off his swoon-worthy face. “It’s my job, love, and you know it. So spend thirty days writing something different. It’s reignited the writing fire in you, right? You can’t wait to get home and get started.”

He’s right. Damn it, he’s right. I want to chase this idea. I want to sit down and start writing this, not help files for software. OMG, I’m going to be distracted by this all day.

“If you’re really good, maybe you can finish the urban fantasy and still work on Book 2 during NaNo.”

“ARE. YOU. INSANE?”

He blocks my path and locks me with his piercing blue gaze. “Are you a writer?”

Sonofabitch.

 


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A Book Lover’s Tag

It’s a week before NaNoWriMo. Well, actually less than a week, but who’s counting? A few of my blogging friends have taken on a Book Lover’s Tag in the past couple weeks. Annika Perry, a wonderful blogger across the pond, kicked off the challenge to her readers. Another one of my blogging friends, D. Wallace Peach, took up the challenge and passed it along. Then, still another of my good blogging friends, Mae Clair, shared her response to the Book Lover’s Tag.

So, since I’m finishing up my “homework”, to be turned in to my publisher by November 1–which also happens to be the first day of NaNoWriMo–I figured I’d take the easy path to this week’s post, instead of boring you with my NaNo prep and my Muse’s stern, er, presence.

So, here we go:

still-life-teddy-white-read
Do you have a specific place for reading?

My favorite place is a recliner in our family room. If I’m drawn into the book, it doesn’t matter much what the rest of the family is doing. Barring that, I can read just about anywhere, like in a waiting room or in the break room at work.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Bookmark, if I can find one. I’ve gotten some nice swag ones from some authors I know, and one of my writing sisters gave me a beautiful one. It’s almost too nice to use. If I can’t find a bookmark, then a random piece of paper will do.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Yep. Eating or drinking while reading depends on the time of day. I like to read when I eat breakfast or lunch. I usually have a glass of water handy, or if it’s the right time, some craft beer. Or wine. And chocolate. Of course 😀

Music or TV whilst reading.

Boy, that’s a tough one. I prefer no TV, but since I do most of my reading in the family room, and my husband has this thing with having the TV on All The Time, I’ve learned to block it out. Which is pretty easy if I’m deep into the book. I can listen to music, but I’m just as comfortable reading in silence

One book at a time or several? book stack

I used to read several books at a time at a pretty good clip. I still read more than one book at a time, but at a far slower rate than I did before I started writing more. To speed things up (ha!), I do listen to audio books when I exercise, either running outside or on the treadmill.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I prefer to read at home, even though I will read other places. Home is where the cozy is 😀

Read out loud or silently?

Silently. I sometimes will read my own work out loud to hear any problems with the sentences.

open book

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I only read ahead if I’m not drawn into the story, or the scene is dragging. You know, like, when is this scene going to be over and what’s in the next scene. If I’m sucked into the story, I just read faster 😀

Break the spine or keep it like new.

I don’t intentionally break the spine. I’m all about taking care of books.

Do you write in books?

OMG, no. Even non-fiction, no way. Wait. Nope, pretty sure no. Highlighting, yes, in non-fiction books.

What books are you reading now?

Hoo-boy. I’m into about four books right now, and a beta read. John Sandford’s Dark of the Moon, Lee Child’s Echo Burning (audio), D. Wallace Peach’s The Bone Wall, Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story. Yikes. And these are between writing sessions. No wonder it’s taking me so incredibly long to read a book.

 

What is your childhood favorite book?

So many to choose from, depending on how old I was. I loved the Three Investigators books by Alfred Hitchkock; no Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew for me. And one book I remember in particular is Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins. I wore my copy out. Anne McCaffery’s Pern books were favorites back when as well, and I still treasure them. Dragons! What’s not to love?dragonflightIsleOfBlueDolphins

What is your all-time favorite book?

Only one? Seriously? No way. Can’t pick just one. There have been so many books I finished and thought: “Wow. This is my new favorite book.”

Okay, okay. If I had to pick one book and only one book to take to a deserted island … I can’t. Arrgh. Noo. I can’t. I can list my favorites by genre. Yes, I think I can do that. My favorite fantasy series (see, I still can’t) is the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I tried to read J.R.R. Tolkein’s stuff, but I could only manage The Hobbit. Urban fantasy? Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, hands down. SciFi? The Pern books, of course. Crime mystery is J. D Robb’s In Death series.

Okay, enough. I can’t do it. Too many books, not enough time! New favorites might be on my TBR list, and I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

And there you have it. Tell me what your faves are.

Next week is NaNo kick-off. I’m pretty sure my Muse will be at his post to keep me motivated 😀 Have a great writing weekend!


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Once upon an author #JohnSandford

As you may know if you’ve been stopping by for the past few weeks, even though my first book isn’t due out until 2019, I’m starting to do more prep work for that period when I finally have a cover, something real I can use to stir up interest before the book comes out.

You know, the scary stuff like author signings and meeting people.

I went to my first author signing (not my own 🙂 ) last night. One of my wonderful sister-in-laws offered to come with me; she’s wanted to go to a signing, and this was a great opportunity. I missed William Kent Kreuger this past August, but John Sandford is another Minnesota mystery/thriller writer whose name I’m familiar with. I’ve started reading Sandford’s first Virgil Flowers book, and I’ve got the first Lucas Davenport waiting. (yes, I know the Davenport series came first, but Sandford’s latest book is a Flowers novel).

There’s a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that’s been around for decades. Their claim to fame is their support of local (read: Minnesota) mystery writers. Any MN mystery/thriller author knows about Once Upon a Crime.

onceuponacrimelogo

Disclaimer: I wanted to go in order to talk to the proprietor about setting up my own signing or maybe book launch. You know, ask how far in advance I’d need to contact them to schedule it. John Sandford was a bonus 🙂

This area of Uptown is within blocks of a couple of Minneapolis’ lakes, namely Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. It’s also my sister-in-law’s old stomping grounds. She pointed out where she used to live, where her husband used to live when they were still dating, and the tennis courts and walking path she used to frequent–which we walked–around Lake of the Isles.

I’m glad she came along. Driving in that area was, well, interesting. The Lowry Hill area is made up of mansions, cool old houses that make you wonder what the original builders did for a living. If you like architecture of that sort, it’s a great place to go.

The streets were narrow. As in, if there are cars parked on both sides, which there were (and don’t get me started on how the hell people could actually parallel park like that), there was barely enough room for two cars to pass between them. More than once I thought my SIL (who drove) would scrape a layer of paint from her car.

The bookstore is cozy. As in the realitors version of “cozy” (you know, small). We got there about 10 minutes before John Sandford was scheduled to start, and it was standing room only. There must have been forty, maybe fifty people there; I couldn’t see around the corner in the store to know how many there were.

OUAC 2OUAC 1

All around the room above the bookshelves were those enlarged book covers left (and some signed) by mystery authors. And books! (well, duh, it’s a bookstore) Mystery/thriller/suspense books by everyone from C. J. Box to Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden) (huh? I was surprised by that one) to John Sandford. But no Patterson.

You heard me. No John Patterson books. Nope, don’t know why, but I suspect Patterson has so many that if they did carry his books, there wouldn’t be room for anyone else.

John showed up a little late, reminding us how horrendous the parking situation is in that area (I wondered if he found the parking spot reserved for him on the side of the building).

OUAC 3

He spoke a little about the new Virgil Flowers book just released, Deep Freeze, then opened the floor for questions. People had some great ones, including what his plans were for not only Flowers and Davenport, but some of his other side characters, like Kidd.

It was a great session. Sandford, 73, was candid and a joy to listen to. Hey, did you know Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live, like, four doors down from John and his wife? They get together regularly for dinners and such. And in case you were wondering, he expects his new house to be done by Christmas–2019. He did recommend Mick Herron in particular when someone asked what authors he reads (and he doesn’t read women authors much).

I enjoyed the evening, and learned a few things about both John Sandford (he used to deliver mail in Wayzata back in the day) and his fans, who asked interesting questions like who his favorite characters were and if it was easy to kill off a major supporting character. He said he was planning to kill Lucas’ wife off, and the whole room gasped. Then he said he just made it a really bad accident instead (because his publisher said he couldn’t kill her). The room let out a sigh of relief.

I’m planning to attend a few more signings there, and my SIL is game for more. If she hadn’t been there, I would’ve been a basket case driving in that area. The narrowness of the streets would’ve been my undoing (I mean, besides the one-ways and unfamiliarity with the area). I’m not claustophobic, but I’m not good when it comes to getting within inches (centimeters?) of parked cars. Yikes!

Rainy day today, so I’m planning to finish reading through my manuscript and starting the few revisions I noted. The manuscript is due on November 1, the day I’ll start NaNoWriMo this year. Hopefully that’ll kick me out my slump.

Have a great writing weekend!


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Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

I’m visiting over at Mae Clair’s site today with a bit about casting the seasons in your stories. Hop on over and take a look!

From the Pen of Mae Clair

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change is temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…

~ooOOoo~

Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice…

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I got nuthin’

Yep. Sittin’ here, staring at my screen, tapping, tapping on my desktop–er, okay, desktop doesn’t rhyme with “chamber door.” I swear if a raven shows up …

Hey, it’s October, gotta have some Poe around.

So, I need to write a blog post, but I can’t think of anything interesting to write about. Next week will be easier; I’m going to see John Sandford at a signing for his new book, “Deep Freeze”, at an independent bookstore that is locally famous for supporting MN mystery writers. More on that next week.

But this week, I’ve got nuthin’. I could bring my Muse in–that’s always entertaining. Mostly. Except I’ve been lacking a bit on the writing front. Okay, okay, lacking a lot. I’m doing another read-through of my manuscript before I turn it in to my editor, so that should count, right? (Not the final version, because my editor will request revisions, I’m sure.)

I could talk about my poor, frost-killed garden. Everything except the kale, Brussels sprouts, and the peppers (which I made a half-hearted attempt to cover against the frost) is dead. Woo-hoo! Except for the fact I have to clean the garden up now. Oh, and the raspberries are doing okay. I’m picking enough berries every three days or so to put on my bowl of cereal in the morning. Pretty sure I won’t have enough to make any jelly this year. They seem to have a heavy crop every other year or so.

NaNo is coming up. Who’s in? Since my September self-imposed NaNo went bust, I think I’m going to utilize the NaNoWriMo energy coming up in November to redraft (read: rewrite from scratch) my WIP. Or another project I was going to work on this spring.

Then again, I’ve got some serious revisions to do on my other manuscript. It’s kind of weird, really. I spent years writing and revising my other manuscript, won a contest with it, and after not reading it for months, maybe even a year, I read it and cringed at the things that need to be fixed.

My agent found the same issues (and many more–I still haven’t gone through all her notes). Thing is, I’m not sure if I want to tackle those now or wait until I’ve got my second contracted manuscript put together. And maybe my small-town mystery.

Sigh.

“Why is it when I leave you alone you get nothing done, love?” My Muse shuts the door to my writing office, bringing a scent of fried food and beer in with him, along with a suspicious stain on the front of his Green Bay Packers jersey.

Packers? Traitor.

“Gee, I don’t know. You’re my Muse. I’m a writer. Something tells me I should be able to write more when my Muse is close by rather than cheering for the Packers. Seriously? The Packers don’t play until Sunday. And the Vikings will win.” I hope. Wait. “So, where did you get that stain and why are you wearing a Packer jersey when the game isn’t until Sunday?”

“Doesn’t matter, love. You done with that blog post yet? You’ve got some work to do for your WIP if you plan on rewriting it during NaNo.”

Boy, it sure was nice and quiet before he showed up.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Keep on writing!