Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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It’s over … mostly #gardening #minnesota #fall #autumn

poorgarden

Remember the snow from last week’s post? And I had to scrape frost from my windshield a day or two later. No, I didn’t cover anything this time.

How do you spell relief when you are a gardener in MN?

FROST.

Yep. Killed pretty much everything not related to cabbage. This picture is from the vantage of the potato bed. Not a great shot, because I dug potatoes weeks ago. It does look pretty desolate though.

The peppers and the zucchini are now wilty versions of their former selves, along with all the remaining bounty. It was a great year for peppers; I finally stopped picking them because, well, how many stuffed peppers can two people eat?

My seasonal favorites weathered the cold just fine.

I’m finishing off the last of the beets, and brussels sprouts are next on the menu, I think. Or kale. Or both. The sprouts did really well this year. I have had some already, but after a frost they tend to sweeten up a bit. Kale, too.

The biggest task now is to clean out the garden and till it. I like to take all the raked-up leaves (when I feel like raking them, because with a grove, it’s like cleaning up kids’ toys just before they roll through again; looks like you didn’t do anything πŸ™‚ ) and dump them into the garden before we till it in.

We’ll leave the sprouts and kale alone. They’ll be fine for a while yet. Oh, and another bonus we get almost every year:

raspberries2raspberries

I suspect it’s the variety, but we usually get some berries in mid-summer, then another crop in fall, depending of course on how cold it is. The raspberry flowers are some of the few flowers still around for the bees. When I was picking peppers a couple weeks back, I checked out the raspberries. So many bees! I don’t think I’ve seen that many bees in one place all summer. They weren’t the European honeybees, though. They were wild bees, which are furrier then the European ones, but not as big as bumblebees. So. Cool.

The chickens are all laying eggs now, or at least most of them are. And the flock likes to follow us around; a couple of the black ones are really keen on being shadows.

chickens

Five of the seven: 3 black, one brown, one speckled

We keep discussing letting them out of the pen for a few hours (putting the dogs in the house, of course), but hubs said he heard a coyote during the day earlier this week. So, probably not letting the chickens out to roam. Not now, anyway. I feel bad because there isn’t any vegetation in the pen (hubs and son “re-landscaped” the area when they redid the pen this spring). I throw tall weeds in the pen for them; its’s a great use for those weeds that are too close to the garden fence to mow.

And more homework! I’m revising my next chunk of my WIP to send off to my writing teacher. I want to get the draft done before NaNo starts. A dream, unless I whisk off to an isolated cabin with heat, internet, wine, and chocolate for a week or two. Still, I’m going to try. Even without the chocolate πŸ™‚

So, as Dory says:

dory

Have a great weekend!

zoey_cr

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Don’t say it’s Snow #minnesota #amwriting #winter

snow2

It is. The four-letter S word. NOOOOO! It’s too early! It’s only almost the middle of October.

Then again, we will miss out on the BLIZZARD hanging out in North Dakota. Whew!

So not ready for this. I’m still trying to enjoy the fall colors. Sigh. Then again, bonus: what a great excuse to stay inside and write! Granted, this weekend–tomorrow really–is only a taste of winter, and we get back to our regularly-scheduled autumn next week. Cooler than average, but no snow.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the garden; I’ll try to get it once the weather clears up in a couple days. The only things really left are the kale and the brussels sprouts. I’m not going to cover the peppers or zucchini. They will fall to the cold.

I’ve got one more unit left to finish for my class. I get to write a query and synopsis for my WIP. However, I’m going to finish the draft first. Translated: put off writing the query and synopsis as long as possible. πŸ˜€

And for those preparing for NaNo this year, I’ll see ya there! (buddy up if you want: my NaNo handle is Aislinge) Depending on how far I get with the draft for Book 2, aka my WIP, aka my class project, I’ll either keep working on that, or start drafting–again–another project I keep thinking about. And I’m going to squeeze in a short story somewhere in there. Our local Sisters in Crime chapter is putting an anthology together again this year. Deadline for submission is December 1. Whether my story will get chosen or not, who knows, but it’d be great if it was.

Another short post this week. Somehow I always feel like I’m trying to keep up or catch up. It’s tough enough to keep up with things around a full-time job, garden stuff (except that’s pretty much done now), and house upkeep (read: the house is sooo not clean). Crossing my fingers any sort of cold or flu stays far away.

Some of my writer friends have been under the weather lately. I know I can’t write or work on the computer when I’m sick, so I tend to watch TV, or maybe read. TV-wise, I will often pull out a How to Train your Dragon movie or a Star Wars movie. What about you? What do you do besides sleep when you’re sick?

Happy Writing and may Winter stay away for another month!

zoey2

Bah! Wake me when it’s over.


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Giving her the heebie-jeebies #amwriting #mystery

The unit I’m working on in my writing class has to do with setting, how it can become more than just a backdrop or stage for the story. The words you use to describe the setting also contribute to the atmosphere or “feel” of the story. Think Edgar Allan Poe. When you read his stuff, notice the descriptive words he uses. For example, here are the first few sentences of “The Fall of the House of Usher”:

Β DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was –but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.

No sunshine and rainbows and unicorns there. Just that little bit will call clouds to rain on a parade. For comparison, I use the first page of Where the Crawdads Sing, which I’m almost finished with. I like it, but it’s a bit slow. The descriptions are really some of the best parts of the book. Delia Owens makes the marsh a character in the story:

capture-where-the-crawdads-sing

There is so much atmosphere here that the reader has the sense of standing out in the marsh and experiencing some sort of transcendence. And notice the personification of the swamp. The setting should get co-star billing in this.

Back to my homework. My current assignment (*aside to my writing teacher*Β yes, I am working on it πŸ˜€ ) is to take a character and put them into a setting that makes them uncomfortable. And they can’t leave the setting during the scene.

See where the heebie-jeebies comes in? Part of the task is to decide whether to use a scene that’s already written, or write a new scene. I haven’t quite hit the part of the story where this comes into play.

It’s one thing to put a character into someplace unfamiliar; that’s almost like cheating, because any unfamiliar place can make a person uncomfortable. Discomfort can range anywhere from that lost feeling one can get in a huge parking ramp at the airport to the goose-pimply spooky feeling when you wander into an old house at night to get out of the rain … and the door slams shut behind you (and yes, for all those Supernatural fans, I’m counting the days until the last season premiere!).

But that’s too easy, right? Okay, how about the ol’ “fish out of water” trick? Take a yuppie and drop her in the woods miles from civilization (and you know she’s wearing heels, because they always do), or take the farm-raised nature kid and make them find their way through Times Square at rush hour.

Eh, still too easy. The point of taking the class, besides to get my butt in gear on Book 2, is to exercise my author muscles and build a great story. So, if anyone has read my book, you know that my main character had a stalker about six years before the book starts. She’s worked hard to overcome that visceral fear of being followed, and she’s conquered that fear.

Or has she? *rubs hands together and cackles*. So I will put her in a place where she learned to be comfortable again once her stalker was put in prison. And make sure she thinks someone is following her. That’ll make her squirm.

Think about a place you are comfortable, like the library, or the gym, or the coffee shop. Now, think about being in that place when a massive storm moves in, and there’s a weird creepy guy who has been staring at you for the past hour. The lights go out! Thunder crashes. Something brushes against you. In the next flash of lightning the creepy guy isn’t where he was–he’s gone. And you can’t leave. Mwahahahahaha!

Yes, this example is dripping with cliche, and I now have a scary movie script started πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ It’s all about using the setting to affect the character in a way that bumps up the tension in the story.

I’ll be trying to catch up on reading blogs and doing my homework this weekend. Hope you get some writing time in, too!

zoey chair

Hey, you’re not taking my picture, are you?


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Creative energies–welcome back! #amwriting #amrevising

Author doubts never go away. I think that’s been why I’ve been struggling with–what do they call it? Second book blues? The book two curse? Fear of book two not being as good as book one?

After seven first drafts, I think I have it figured out. Oh, and taking a novel-writing class helps, too. Especially my latest assignment: a set-piece scene. A set-piece scene is one that sets the tone, and includes conflict, emotion, and the senses. It’s a memorable scene that might be the midpoint crisis, or the climax, or at any point in the book.

The class example of a set-piece scene was the circus scene from Water for Elephants, where all hell breaks loose, the animals start stampeding, and the ringmaster gets … well, no spoilers.

I wanted to get something to my writing teacher before she left on vacation, so I tried to figure out what scene in my WIP would be considered a set-piece scene, or rather, what scene could I write that could be considered a set-piece scene.

I took a walk to ponder the possibilities, and came up with something I thought would work. It’s near the midpoint of the story, and puts my main character in danger.

Here’s the weird part: I drafted the scene, looked at it the next morning and tweaked it a bit, then submitted it. The verdict? Yes, it was a set-piece scene, and it was pretty good, too. I can feel the creative energy coming back.

“Because you listened to me, love.” My Muse, who has been keeping one of the recliners in a corner of my writing office warm, sets his crossword puzzle aside. Apparently his pub crawl buddies are all busy.

“I’m writing, and you’re doing crosswords? Seriously?”

He taps a temple with his pen. “Keeps the mind sharp.”

“Oh? American or Australian crosswords?”

“British. I like a challenge.”

Which is probably why he hasn’t given up on me yet.

He levers himself out of the chair and crosses my office, shoving the cuffs of his long-sleeved t-shirt to his elbows. The royal blue of the t-shirt almost coordinates with his purple Vikings helmet-covered lounge pants. I feel like I should microwave some popcorn and put in a movie, ala slumber party.

“I won’t give up on you, love. And after you went through the feedback from your Writing Sisters again, you’ve been much more receptive to my suggestions. You’re starting the revisions now, right?” He shakes a finger at me to emphasize his point. “Don’t get hung up on the revisions. You know better. Revise what you need to and keep going.”

“My next homework is an outline. I want to have that done by the time my teacher is back from vacation. And I have another bookstore signing tomorrow.”

He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “Don’t worry about the outline. That’s a piece of cake. You’re getting your momentum back.” He squeezes, and plants a kiss on my forehead. “Keep it up, love. You’re doing good.”

I feel better about the story. That set-piece scene kicked off some other ideas that for some reason hadn’t been apparent to me before. And the changes will give a stronger motive to one of the characters; it’ll make his actions much more believable.

This is the part about writing I really like, the creative energy that makes me want to find a nice quiet place and do nothing but write without worrying about anything else.

Enjoy one of the last weekends of summer!

zoey chair mine
What? You got up, so it’s mine now.


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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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Getting back into it #amwriting

writing-933262_1280

I swat at the cloud of gnats swarming my head and dart through the back door of my writing office. With the door safely closed and most of the bugs left outside, I pull off my head-net. Best. Investment. Ever. Although, one can tolerate a cloud of gnats around one’s head–even one safely ensconsed in mosquito netting–only so long.

“Seriously, love?” My Muse is leaning on my writing desk, arms crossed. Until he swats at a rogue gnat. A teeny wisp of smoke fades.

“Dude, did you just fry that gnat?”

Another teeny wisp of smoke drifts toward the floor. “Would you rather I corral them and coax them back outside?”

“Hell, no. Why don’t you nuke all the ones out in the garden so I don’t have to wear this head-net and spray down with bug repellent.”

“Not my job.” He crosses his legs at the ankles. Which is when I notice he’s wearing deck shoes, no socks, tan cargo shorts, and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt. Except the shirt is tye-dyed rather than the usual black. “Besides, they’ll be gone in a week or so. Now that you’re done playing in the dirt …”

“Playing? Excuse me, but I was trying to weed. You know, before I couldn’t stand listening to bugs in my ears and flying around my eyes.” I peel off my long-sleeved button-down shirt. Ugh. Eighty degrees outside and I have to wear long pants and long sleeves just to weed without turning into a snack bar. A stray buzz by my ear sounds like a mini-buzzsaw. I slap at my head. Damn fricking bugs. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of weeding done. “Whatever it is, it’s going to have to wait until after I shower.”

A slow, crooked grin stretches across his face. An eyebrow arches.

“What? What’s funny?”

“Best you don’t know, love.”

Ahem. O-kay. “Hey, I don’t need any shit from you. I’m writing. I even have the first chapter done. I knew that class was a good idea.”

“Yes, you are, and yes, it was. And I’m not going to let you slack off because your writing teacher is conducting a week-long writing retreat this week. She wants to see the next chapter.”

“And I want to write it. But shower first.” The sharp pine-ish smell of bug spray just reminds me of bugs. Bloodsucking bugs.

“I’ll be waiting.” He crosses the office and settles into one of the recliners in the corner before he reaches to the mini-fridge and pulls out a craft beer. “Hurry up. I have some ideas for the next few chapters.”

“Good. So do I.”

I have to say, I am sooo glad I took this class. The units and exercises are set up to walk through the process of building a novel. So far, in the unit I’m on, my assignments included a logline and the infamous Central Question, a review of the book as a bestseller, as well as my main character’s best personality trait and her Fatal Flaw.

By writing the review, specifically looking at the character, plot, and transformational arc, I discovered a few things, one in particular that “clicked” as part of Sierra’s arc. By really thinking about her fatal flaw and why she has it, I hit another revelation that will help me with the story.

My next assignment is the first 20 pages. I have the first nine done as part of an earlier assignment, and I feel good about keeping things going. Being accountable is a big part of this, but also the coaching. My mentor is a great coach; she always manages to say something or make a suggestion that turns on the lightbulb and makes me want to dig in and move forward. I even took a day off next week to give myself some additional time to write. And work on promo stuff.

Enjoy your weekend, and to all the fathers out there, whether you have your own kids or you fill that place in someone’s life: Happy Father’s Day!

zoey chair 3


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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!