Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Hello December, or Help! I’m stuck

You sure it’s December? Because it was in the upper 40’s (Fahrenheit) this week. In Minnesota. After Thanksgiving. To give you an idea, the average temps this time of year are around freezing. Usually snow doesn’t stick around until after Thanksgiving, but so far in my part of the Great White North, there’s been no white. You’ll have to head north, like Duluth or International Falls north, to find snow. If it hasn’t melted by now.

Seriously. It wasn’t that many years ago when it was in the teens on Thanksgiving Day.

Anyway.

I hit 50k words before the end of NaNo, so yay. Problem is, I’m losing momentum again. The story isn’t done. I’ve reached the spot where I’ve adjusted the storyline, but, well, …

Have you ever lost your “umph” for a story? You get to a point where you’ve lost all interest in the story, but you know you need to power through and finish the draft? Yep, welcome to my world. Part of it is the story, part of it is the time of year (how busy are you this time of year with potlucks, and parties, and ?), and part of it is the effing melonheads in DC doing their damndest to screw everyone who doesn’t make six or more figures.

So, how do you move through this mire?

Anyone?

giphy1

Bueller?

giphy

Okay, I’m going to toss out some ideas.

Idea #1: Wade through it. I’ve got a rough outline, so I have a direction. It’s different–better, I like to think, but … And first drafts are supposed to be crappy, so I shouldn’t worry what it ends up being, because there’s going to be revisions. Lots of revisions.

Idea #2: Switch projects. I’ve got another story I plan on hitting after I finish the draft for Book 2. So, maybe I press the “Pause” button on Book 2 and start a self-imposed NaNo for my other project.

Idea #3: Go back to a past project and work on revisions. I’ve got a police procedural that needs some work, and I’ve actually done a little on it this past week. I’ve got a contemporary fantasy that needs some revising, and an epic/traditional fantasy that still needs the ending written. A genre change might be good.

Idea #4: Do something completely different. As in, not work on other projects sitting around. Write a short story, or revisit poetry, or hell, stream of consciousness writing through my anxiety about stuff I can’t fix.

Idea #5: Take a break. *silence* Yeah, that’s what I was doing before NaNo. I did NaNo to bust the non-writing slump. Nope. Scratch this one.

Idea #6: Take a walk. Or two. Or three. I haven’t done this for a while, partly because of the weather–even though it’s been unseasonably warm it’s been windy as hell, and partly because the gravel road I walk on is a high-traffic area this time of year since the neighbors are bringing in semi-trailer loads of harvested corn. All. The. Time. Not good to walk on a gravel road that hasn’t seen any sort of moisture for weeks with semi-trucks racing around on it. *Cough*

I like to listen to music when I write, so I’ve got that covered.

If you’ve got any other suggestions, drop them into a comment. It’s the weekend, so I’m going to write.

I will write.

Hear that, brain. I’m going to write, dammit.

You, too. Take advantage of the time before the holidaze, while the craziness is still somewhat manageable.

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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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Day 3, Quote 3

It’s Monday, and Day 3 of the 3 days, 3 quotes challenge presented to me by my blogging buddy Emily Bates over at Bumblesbooks. I haven’t decided yet if I want to use a snarky quote, an inspirational one, a funny one, or a deep one (like, Lao Tzu deep).

So, now I get to hunt down one last quote (why do I keep imagining Elmer Fudd searching the woods for his wascally wabbit?). Not to mention, I get to tag one other lucky blogger each day to join in the fun (cue evil laugh here 🙂 )

So, here I am, searching for writing quotes, and I find a page from Writer’s Digest that lists 72 quotes for writers. All of them are excellent quotes for writers, but I picked this one:

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
—R.L. Stine, WD (this quote is from an interview with Stine that ran in our November/December 2011 issue)

I hear Charlie Rose ask authors this all the time, and I always seem to tune out the answers. There are standard answers, like: Write Every Day. I think Stine had it right. If you want to be a writer, I mean, really want to be a writer, you know what you need to do. You need to write as often as possible. You need to learn the craft of writing, whether it is fiction, poetry, or whatever. You need to find other writers to critique your work.

I toyed with the idea of being a real writer for years before I actually tried it. I had so many story ideas, but I didn’t recognize that I had to write. Writers have to write. We go crazy, otherwise. I’m feeling like that now. I spent five glorious days of doing nothing but writing, talking about writing, working out story revisions, and spending time with my writing sisters. When I returned home all charged up to do my revisions for my WIP, reality kicked in. First, head to the garden and pick all the produce that needs to be picked (to answer your question, a LOT). Next, process the produce into pickles and canned tomatoes. Then, some “it can’t wait any longer” chores. Then, off to work. Then, more garden chores. Then family obligations since my sister came home this weekend–haven’t seen her since Christmas.

I’m feeling it. There’s an impatience inside, an anxiety that translates into tension, crankiness, and now segueing into a general malaise. I need to write. I need to work on my WIP while my inspiration is fresh, but I’m working against real life. It’s the consummate struggle writers face, those of us who have full-time jobs, are full-time parents, and have more than a small apartment to maintain. Real life versus the craft we crave. Cleaning house versus revising that chapter. It’s a battle between responsibility and want–no, need. Writers need to write.

Okay, I’m finished. Thanks for letting me blow off just a bit of frustration 🙂 Anywho, there’s my quote for day 3.  And to share the wealth, I’d like to tag Andrea Connolly over at Captain’s Log for the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge. She’s another writer with a great blog. And Andrea, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ll let you know what I find!


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Day 2, Quote 2

Welcome to day 2 of the 3 days, 3 quotes challenge presented to me by my blogging buddy Emily Bates over at Bumblesbooks. I don’t have a collection of favorite quotes, because I know once I save them, I won’t be able to find the one I want (my desk at work is kinda like that, but hey, I know where everything is–unless I clean it) I know a few sources I love to check when I do need a quote for something.

So, now I get to hunt down an awesome quote each day. The better part–I get to tag one other lucky blogger each day to join in the fun (cue evil laugh here 🙂 )

Remember the days before Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, back when you emailed the good humor jokes and quotes to your friends instead of posting them? Ah, those were the days! My favorite emailed humor always starred Hallmark Cards’ famed grouchy old woman, Maxine. I think someone in the office even had one of those daily desk calendars of Maxine quotes; I remember taping a couple daily pages next to my desk because those particular quotes were just perfect.

Maxine margaritaThis is one of many I found when I went on my quote hunt this morning. I thought about including all the ones I found, but maybe I should start a quote collection instead, for the next time someone tags me for a quote challenge 🙂

Just like yesterday’s pick, this one reminds me of my writing sisters. I also substitute “Muse” for “friends”, because he’s just like that. The think I love most about Maxine is how she can say so much in one or two short sentences. Here’s another example:

Sometimes wouldn’t you like to just put the whole day in your toilet……and then flush!

Right? Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a day like that. Yep, I knew it. Okay, I can’t resist. One more. Writer’s block, anyone? Maxine brain

Did you ever haunt the local mall with your best friend or two from high school? One of the things we used to do was find the Hallmark store and read the Maxine cards. If it would’ve been a library, they would’ve kicked us out in the first minute.

Besides Maxine, I’ve always found Calvin and Hobbes great at pick-me-ups. I’ve got a few of the Calvin and Hobbes collections, and they’ve become well-worn. When I’m feeling low, or just grumpy, reading something funny helps to brighten the day. Of course, that doesn’t help much with writer’s block, but it sure makes the day seem lighter.

What do you read to feel better during a down-in-the-dumps day? Do you head to the Hallmark Cards store at the mall and hang out in Maxine’s section for a bit? Do you dig your old Garfield books out of their dusty corner of your bookshelf? Maybe you’re a Robert Frost sort of person, and turn to him or Sandburg to help you return to calm.

There’s my quote for day 2. Now back to hunting for the next one. And to share the wealth, I’d like to tag D Peach Wallace over at Myths of the Mirror for the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge. She’s got a great blog, and maybe she has a secret folder of quotes stashed somewhere. Head on over to her blog; she posts some great stuff.


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Day 1, Quote 1

I’m relatively new to the world of blogging–I started about a year ago. Since then, I’ve made connections with some wonderful people, writers who are witty, or profound, or insightful, or everything rolled up together in a neat little package. How cool is that!

I’ve also been tagged for a couple challenges in the past year, and I’ve just been tagged for another. This one is the three quotes in three days challenge, which I haven’t seen yet, but my blogging buddy Emily Bates over at Bumblesbooks tagged me for this one. Now, I’m not one to squirrel away awesome quotes I find, simply because I would never be able to remember I have them, and wouldn’t be able to find the ones I really like when I want to find them. However, I know a few sources I love to check when I do need a quote for something.

So, now it’s time to hunt down an awesome quote each day for the next three days. The better part–I get to tag one other lucky blogger each day to join in the fun (cue evil laugh here 🙂 ) So, without further procrastin–ah, I mean, ado, here goes nothing.

When I think of people who say witty things on the spur of the moment, Mark Twain always comes to mind. He’s one of those people I think would be fascinating to talk to for an afternoon. Whenever I read his speeches, or see a documentary on him, I’m always amazed by what he says. Here’s one that stuck with me:

I think this quote struck me because I just spent time with my writing sisters. We are seven women, including our mentor, who do what we can to help each other succeed in our writing endeavors. Writers seem to be like that as a whole. I’ve run across so many more accomplished writers than myself who are willing to help other writers continue to improve. I’ve found the community of writers to be friendly, encouraging, and fun, both online and in person. I’m sure there are sour grapes out there, as there are no matter what your interest or hobby is, but I’ve been fortunate not to cross paths with them.

So, here’s my first quote for my first day. Now back to hunting for the next one. And to share the wealth, I’d like to tag Mae Clair for the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge (hey, Mae, you still owe me 5 Days, 5 Pictures 😉 ). She’s been on a book blog tour for her latest novel, Myth and Magic, but maybe she has a secret folder of quotes stashed somewhere.

Take a few minutes and head on over to the Meet Your Main Character blog this month. We’ve got an awesome Top 5 this month, and our guest blogger’s hilarious post should be up soon. We’ve got a new member as well, and her introductory post is a fun read.


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Five Days, Five Photos Challenge — Day Five

P_20150620_201208For Day Five, I had to shout-out to my Writing Sisters. Hey, gals!

Three years ago, I signed up for the Write-By-The-Lake Retreat at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It’s a week-long event that gives writers a week to focus only on their writing, whatever it may be. It was close enough I could drive there, and reasonable enough I was able to save up for it.

It was a fork-in-the-road moment. I needed to get to the next level in my writing, and the Master Novel program seemed like the way to do it. The Master Novel class is taught by Christine DeSmet, and I’d read rave reviews about it. The class is limited to six writers and their complete novels. I signed up for a week of intense novel examination with five other women and a writing teacher with many years of experience.

Little did any of us know that week would be the start of friendships that would continue for years.

After three years, we are still cheerleaders for each other, offering encouragement when we lose our drive, ideas and suggestions when we run into a road block, and just all-around camaraderie. We all started in the Midwest, and now we’re scattered from Michigan to California, yet we manage to keep in touch.

Treasure the connections you make with other writers. We’re a fickle, crazy, hermetic lot. I’ve met so many neat people in the past few years; the Internet is great for helping us get in touch with each other. To all the great writers I’ve met online–glad to have the chance to know you!

What a great challenge this has been! If you are tagged by a fellow writer for a challenge, just try it. It’ll be fun 🙂

I was nominated to take part in this photo challenge by Andrea Connolly, who shared wonderful images of the sea and sailing, along with great prose.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive day
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!


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Five Days, Five Photos Challenge — Day Four

Dame's Rocket

Dame’s Rocket

In the early summer, our grove around the farmstead is decorated by clumps of Dame’s Rocket. The fragrance of the flowers is so nice. It’s a lightly-sweet floral scent, not musky or perfumy. That, along with the pink–and sometimes white–flowers, brightens the shadows under the trees. They’re a sure sign spring is in full force and summer is on the way.

The Dame’s Rocket I see every day reminds me to pay attention. Not just observing things, but paying attention to things. Sure, I can see the flowers are blooming, but they smell great, and there are more white flowers in some areas than in others. I try to remember to pay attention whenever I’m out walking around.

I suppose I should qualify what I’m paying attention to. I like to be aware of nature, and what is surrounding me in that realm. We have a wonderful walking trail accessible where I work. The path is paved, and meanders through a woodsy area preserved just outside a residential cluster of townhomes. I’ve seen many wildflowers bloom; I try to take pictures with my phone’s camera (crappy pics because I haven’t graduated to a smart phone yet) so I can look up the names of the flowers.

One day was particularly fun. On my lunchtime walk, I saw a number of wildflowers blooming for the first time this spring. Even more interesting was the wildlife. Red-winged blackbirds always trill around the ponds. Baby garter snakes slithered away from their sunning spots. Along other ponds, Canada geese hung out with goslings, and I caught sight of the back end of a snapping turtle as it fled into the pond from its sunning perch. Farther along the path, I stopped. Two wild turkey hens were using the path in front of me. If you’ve never seen wild turkeys, trust me when I say they’re big. They were shy enough to refuse to stay put while I got my phone ready to take a picture.

I hope you take the time to enjoy your surroundings. Nature is an excellent muse, and I’ve come up with some great solutions to dilemmas in my writing during my walks.

Enjoy the outdoors, wherever you are!

I was nominated to take part in this photo challenge by Andrea Connolly, who shared wonderful images of the sea and sailing, along with great prose.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive day
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!