Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Has anyone seen my focus?

Photo by Daisy S on Unsplash

If you have, please send it home.

Yep, it’s been that kind of a week. I’m stuck in revision mode, but you know when you get to a spot you know you need to revise, but haven’t got a clue how to do it and not make it sound stupid? That’s where I’m at.

So I’ve been spinning my wheels, taking brainstorming walks, and debating whether to stick a pin in it and move on to the next spot. Thing is, how I revise this spot will affect other revisions later in the book. So, I need to figure this one out first.

Or do I work on another project for a few days and then go back to Book 2? Or do I take some time to work on my website and do all that other “administrative” stuff, like finding in-person events over the summer (you know, like street fairs, book fests, that sort of thing), the sort of stuff that is tough for writers to do in the first place. Although, it is nice that there are a lot of in-person things again.

I think I got out of practice, or just really comfortable not doing that stuff again. If I’m not at an in-person event, it means I can spend that much more time writing, right?

I have to give a lot of credit to real life stuff for derailing my focus. Who knew that worrying about a child trying to “adult” and having a tough time of it (because of her choices, despite the suggestions and shared wisdom of her parents) would torpedo so much creative energy? We offer guidance, suggest course corrections, but she’s still at the “not listening to my parents for the principle of it” stage.

Man, I can’t wait until that 21 year-old brain matures. If we’re lucky, she’ll listen and take our advice into consideration when making choices. Until then, we’re still pretty much dealing with a teenager. Sigh.

On the bright, “I can’t wait for it” side, I have my personal writing retreat (three-night stay) next weekend. Woo-hoo! Happy dance! Granted, I have expectations, and I know the weekend may not live up to them, but I’m hopeful. Intentional. If the weekend goes well, I’m going to try to schedule another personal writing retreat this summer.

Crossing my fingers! I’ll try to let you know how it goes; I will probably do my regular post, but if I’m on a roll, maybe not on my regular posting day.

After that, we have to get the garden planted; my tomato plants are more than ready to get into the ground. My pepper seedlings, on the other hand (and my brussels sprouts) are not doing well this year. I think I overwatered them, and they’re struggling to recover. I’ll have to go to the local greenhouse and get some plants. My cukes are coming along nicely; after last year and replanting 3 (4? 5?) times with only one plant as a result, I decided to start my cukes this year. I don’t normally, since I’ve never had much trouble when I’ve planted them directly in the garden, and cucumber plants don’t like being transplanted.

Anyway, after a brush with summer and nasty storms, the weather is settling into a more spring-like pattern–finally! It should be pretty comfortable next weekend, somewhere between the low 60s and mid-70s F for temps, and cooling to the mid-50s or so at night. The trees are waking up, and some are fully dressed again. I love the return of green plants!

Have a wonderful writing week!


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New Year, new determination #amwriting #amrevising

Another new year stretches ahead. Man, last year seemed to fly. Not sure why, but I remember hearing somewhere along the way that time seems to go faster as you get older. Or more scatterbrained.

In retrospect, last year was better than 2020, despite the tenacity of the pandemic. I was able to write again, much to my and my Muse’s relief. I got to see my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion! In-person family gatherings were back on the agenda. I even got to do a couple in-person events!

One of the things I’m thankful for (in hindsight, of course!) is being restructured out of my job. Weird, huh? It forced me to look for a new job, and that led me to my current job, which is so much better than my last one (at least than the last six months of my last one). So thankful! My new job is with a great company with awesome benefits and heck, I even got a nice raise compared to my old job.

Now, it’s look-ahead time. New Year’s resolutions? Eh, I’d rather call them intentions. Or items on my yearly to-do list:

Finish Book 2: Revise according to beta reader suggestions, one more beta round, and off to my agent. Can’t wait!

Finish revising my police procedural: After I sent Book 2 off to betas, I’ve been reworking my police procedural. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned since the last time I worked on it. And I’ve let it sit long enough that I have the perspective to see what I need to cut. Answer: More than I would have two years ago.

In-person events: Of course, this all depends on the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to Left Coast Crime (Albuquerque) in April, since the event in San Diego was canceled after the first day due to the pandemic. And Bouchercon will be in Minneapolis this year! As other events come up, I’m hoping to get back to seeing readers again.

Mini-writing retreat: I came close to doing it last year, except I had all that job-hunting to do. This year, I’m planning to head off to a local, erm, not really resort, and not really a BnB, but they have cabins in the woods a person can rent like hotel rooms. After my dad sold the house (I had been going there while he and my uncle went on their cruises), I realized I do need that valuable alone time to focus on writing rather than cleaning, or gardening, or grumbling about how I can’t find quiet with the TV on all day long.

Writerly groups: I’m now the official president of our local Sisters in Crime chapter, so that’ll be interesting. I’m also part of a new critique group for suspense writers, and a group of fellow Sisters in Crime members as an experiment in cross-marketing. Which reminds me, I have newsletters to write and a website to update.

Novellas: I wrote two novellas starring the main characters of my published book over NaNo last year. I need to revise those and maybe use them as a tool (bribe?) for my newsletter peeps. Or stuff them into a drawer. Hmm. Maybe during my mini-writing retreat I can revise them enough so they don’t read like a 5th grader wrote them.

Finish my rural MN mystery: It’s roughly half-finished. Of course, that might get elbowed out by Book 3. Who knows?

Okay, I think my list is long enough. Uff-da. How are you planning to use your new year? More writing? More nature-walks for brainstorming? Fewer hours in the rabbit holes and time-sucks of the internet?

Whatever you choose, may you enjoy good health and an abundance of creative inspiration!

Have a great new year!

Another day, another nap.


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Another year, another win! #nanowrimo2021

Another year, another win! Not just having written 50k words in 30 days, but having rebuilt the habit of writing every day.

One of the things I find every year when I do this crazy exercise is the flow and ebb of creativity. Flow first, because it always seems when I start my NaNo journey I take off with a rush of creative energy, but by week 2, that energy starts to ebb, and I find myself writing a lot of inline notes to myself, or more accurately, stream of consciousness writing along the lines of “what if this happened now” or “this sounds stupid, fix it later”.

With the cooler weather, and … oh, heck, it’s the sunset at four freaking o’clock … I haven’t been walking as much as I was back before we turned the clocks back, and before the sun set earlier than six o’clock. Walking really helps with the whole brainstorming process for me. There was a writer some time ago who posted about walking whenever she got stuck … Come to think of it, a LOT of writers walk when they get stuck.

Anyway, I end up doing a lot of brainstorming, or just brain-nothing, when I walk. But now, with the early sunset and working until late afternoon (i.e. after the sun goes down), I’m not getting my daily dose of fresh air, and I’m not getting the benefit of the half-hour or so of “brainwalking”.

So what’s a writer to do? Wait for the winter solstice, for sure (about three weeks and counting!). But I’ve learned that writing longhand is a great way to stoke the creative energies. Of course, writing longhand means the computer doesn’t conveniently count how many words I write.

What does work, though, is writing … er, drafting a project outside of the NaNo window, then transcribing that into the computer as a NaNo project. It’s amazing how many words can come out of a longhand draft. I had started writing one of the novellas this summer, I think, then started it again (cuz I had a better idea, or the first one sucked worse than usual or something along those lines). I knew that novella was going to be one of my NaNo projects.

By the time I transcribed the part I’d drafted (only about the first third to a half of the novella), I’d gotten back into the story, and managed to finish it in a way I had never considered when I started it. Score!

I’m feeling like a real writer again. I mean, I am a real writer, but … you know what I mean. I’m back into the “writing every day” habit (or most every day), and I’m going back to my police procedural to revise that a bit right now. Or maybe my small-town mystery. Or maybe book 3 …

I feel a craft-related post coming up for next week, now that I’ve finished reading a couple books that had me analyzing the way the authors used the craft. Very interesting, and they had me reading as much for gleaning ideas on how to write as much as for the story itself.

Keep on writing!

For you, B! A furry kitty tummy!


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Kicking drafts and taking names #amrevising #amwriting

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I’m trying to pry dirt from under my fingernails, so of course I run into the door to my writing office before I turn the knob. Damn. It’s a good thing I was distracted, because the moment I open the door the odor of fried food and stale beer, like the kind you can’t get out of your clothes after watching the game at a sports bar (I know, it’s been a while, but you still remember, right?), wafts past me. Part of me wants to turn around and go back to weeding, but I resist.

Yeah, I probably should have listened to that part.

“I understand a ‘Job Well Done’ is in order, love.” My Muse is standing in front of the whiteboard covering one wall of my office. His fried food cologne must be emanating from the rugby jersey he’s wearing. His khaki cargo shorts have a stain on one thigh I hesitate to identify. Deck shoes complete his ensemble. No socks. Nice calves.

“Where have you been?”

He adds a note to the homework criteria I wrote on the board. “Things are opening up. Outdoor seating, and now some indoor seating, but the weather’s too nice to be inside.”

“So, you and Mr. E went on a pub crawl. If you were sitting outside, why do you smell like a sports bar?”

He adds another note. “Do you know fryers smoke? Even outdoors.”

I swallow a snarky comment about fryers and Camels or Marlboros. “Let me guess. You and Mr. E sat downwind. Didn’t think to move?”

He hit me with his brilliant blue eyes, a brow arched. “You make it sound like there was somewhere else to sit. It was like everyone was coming out of hibernation. We had to wait in line at a couple places.”

That sounds about right. “I can’t believe you had to sit downwind of the fryer at every bar you hit.”

“Well, there was one where they didn’t set up the fryers outside.” He adds one more note, then snaps the cover on the dry-erase marker. “Well done, love. You finished your first round of revision.”

I stand beside him in front of the board. “Um, thanks, I guess.”

“You sound disappointed.”

“I wasn’t, until I dug into my homework assignment.” Plotting. This assignment, my last for the class, looks at the story plot points. I’ve been feeling a major lack of satisfaction with the story, even after I figured out the plot to begin with. When I dug into my homework, I realized why. “I need to adjust the plot. Like, a significant change.”

My Muse swaps the marker in his hand for a different color, and adds another note. “That’s a good thing. You found the problem now, rather than two revisions from now.”

“You could have said something earlier, like before I finished the first draft–correction, finished the first draft after seven false starts. Maybe I would have gotten through it faster. Like after only five false starts.”

He rests an arm around my shoulders. The smell of French fries assaults my nose. “You forget one thing, love.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t always listen to me.” Before I can respond, he continues. “Besides, you got to feel like you accomplished something by finishing the first round of revision. There’s a lot to be said about feeling like you’ve made progress. It’s important for all writers, but especially for one who tossed out seven partially-finished first drafts.”

“So, you didn’t hammer me with the revelation until I finished the first revision? Do you know how much further I’d be if I’d figured this out sooner?” I’m so glad I’m taking this class, because I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to see the glaring weak spot otherwise.

“How much have you learned because you analyzed the plot for your homework?” He tosses the marker onto the sill of the board. “You know the story will be stronger because of it.” He squeezes my shoulders, then heads to the mini-fridge and pulls out a brewski. He points the bottle at me then the board before twisting off the cap and slinging it into the trash. “Get your homework finished so we can work on that other story. I have a few ideas.”

I’m sure you do. He’s right, I can see the places where the plot needs work, which is part of the process. I do find it frustrating to get through one round of revision before I have that head-slapping “DUH!” moment.

Come to think of it, I’ve had a lot of those “DUH!” moments with this story. Sheesh.

Now that I’m done with my first round of revision, once I finish my homework, I’ll move on to a different story for a few weeks to let Book 2 rest. After this class, I have one more to take to get my second badge and move one step closer to my writing certificate.

How is your writing coming along? Enjoy this last week of Spring before the solstice next week!

Zoey on retaining wall


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Lighten up!

Finishing up week 3 of working from home. And self-isolation. I feel like I should be following starship protocol:

Captain’s log 2020095: Icy drizzle and snow pellets today, like teeny snowballs. Cold. Windy. And still waiting out the statewide stay-at-home order. Supplies are okay; no need to ration yet. The crew is restless, but we have little choice but to resist the desire to wander.

Anyway, one thing people are doing during this whole thing to brighten things is put up Christmas lights. I love the idea; the lights are my favorite part of Christmas.

So, I have two strings up, and it does help with mood.

lights

“Mood, maybe. Writing? Not so much.” My Muse grabs a beer from the mini-fridge and settles back into one of the two recliners in my writing office.

“I’m working on revisions.”

“You are, love. Considering you haven’t had to commute for the past few weeks, I thought you would be further along by now.”

“I finished my class. And taxes. And migraine days.” I grab my own beer from the fridge and drop into the other recliner. “I got some other stuff done.” Not cleaning, though. Actually, that’s on my list for this weekend, but I’m not going to tell him that. Better get it done before the weather gets nice and warm and beckoning.

“Other stuff that doesn’t include writing.”

“Other stuff that includes walks in the nice spring weather and … Hey, at least I’m not totally freaking out because I’m cooped up and distracted.” Just sort of freaking out. A little. Yeah, I’ll go with that.

“Uh-huh.”

He doesn’t sound convinced.

“Whatever. I’m working on revisions.” And resisting starting something that keeps poking at me. An urban fantasy. Maybe it’s because I’m waiting anxiously for the next Harry Dresden book–finally!

“You do not need to be distracted, love. You have a space. Use it.”

*Grumble* I do have a space. “My lights are in the common living area. I like my lights.” Especially these days. Maybe I can start working on my real writing office after I’m done cleaning, since my son isn’t here right now.

“Your son isn’t here now, love, but he is graduating in a month. Then what?”

He’s right. It’s not like the job market is screaming for people at this point. “He’ll move back home.” I love my family, but I miss my empty nest. By the time school is out I should be able to get the garden started, so I’ll have … wait. More distractions. Sigh.

“I’ll use my space more.”

“Not just for meditation practice, either.”

I started practicing meditation, but I’ve missed the past few days. “I know, I know. Once I finish going over the hard copy again, I’ll get back into the writing space routine.”

“Good.” He drains his beer and tosses the empty into the recycling bin. “And ignore the urban fantasy.”

“I want to write a story with a dragon.”

He focuses his brilliant blue eyes on me. “No. Fantasy. Finish book 2, your police procedural, and the rural mystery. Then think about fantasy.”

Ugh. He’s right. But maybe I can squeeze a short story in somewhere.

Anyway, I thought I’d share something a little different. This is Zoey when she wants to be petted. (If you have your volume up, ignore the banging and TV in the background. Hubs was making lunch.)

Zoey wants petting (Note: it’s on Dropbox, so just ignore the stupid “sign up for Dropbox” popup)

Enjoy! Stay safe and keep writing!

zoeychair