Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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A-Musing Return

Blue goo drips down the brainstorming wall like a slime creature suffering from narcolepsy. A crimson splat mixes with a yellow blob. I lob another idea at the wall, this one a bright green. It hits and bounces against the wall like a skipping stone across the water until it shatters against a pink and orange swirl. 

That could work. I peer closer. I’m pretty sure that will work. Still following the pattern on the wall, I reach back for another idea.

No bucket. Damn. I know I left it …

“Looking for this, love?”

I swing around so fast I lose my balance and catch myself against the wall. My hand slips across the mosaic of ideas. I flail, scrabbling against the slick wall.

My Muse catches my arm and hauls me upright before I hit the floor, his other hand occupied by my idea bucket. “Still clumsy, I see.”

Steady now, I move to wipe my hands, until I see the mess. Like finger paints, only brighter and a bit more slickery. “Geez. It’s about frickin’ time. Glad you found your way back.” Seriously. I’m glad he found his way back. Grumpy was starting to get on my nerves. For the past two weeks.

He hands me a towel he pulls from his back pocket. The texture is odd, like velour but scratchier. It does the trick, though. While I clean my hands off, I notice his five o’clock shadow has an extra 12 hours on it. He’s wearing a Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt from Surfer’s Paradise, wherever that is, sleeves shoved to his elbows. His wearing-them-well jeans and flip-flops complete the ensemble. Then I notice his blond hair is lighter on top, and his skin has acquired a bronze tint.

“Queensland,” he supplies, even though I know I didn’t ask out loud. “And yes, I did enjoy some sun. It’s summer there, you know.” He scratches at the stubble on his face while he checks out the brainstorming wall. “Progress, I see.”

I finish cleaning off my hands and dangle the towel–now looking like a rainbow vomited on it–toward him. “Some.”

He sets the bucket on the floor and snaps the towel at it like a shower room gotcha. The colors shoot from the towel into the bucket, each hue reclaiming its ball shape as it hits the target.

Damn, he’s good.

“Grumpy said you made NaNo. Congratulations, love.”

“No thanks to that killjoy. You know, he’s worse than you are. I am sooo glad you’re back.” Then I plant hands on my hips. “Don’t do that again.”

His blue eyes sparkle. “You progressed on your WIP and you won NaNo. And you worked some things out.”

I poke his distractingly-solid chest. “No excuse. Isn’t there a rule against wagering time with your writer in a poker game?”

He just grins.

Damn distracting. “Anyway, you heard the news, right?”

He tucks the towel back into his pocket. “Which news? The news where you’ll be starting your term as VP with the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime? Do you have your panel ready for the January meeting? How about the workshop about using Word and track changes?”

I roll my eyes. “No. Well, yes, but no.”

He raises an eyebrow. “The news where you’re getting more visibility at the Writer’s Institute in April? Two presentations, a panel, and two half-hour sessions with other writers. Plus selling your book. You are going to be a busy woman that weekend.”

30th-writers-institute-email

“Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.”

“You should be. You know it’s a great opportunity to get your name out there.”

“I know, I know. It’s on my list. I have to work on my presentations.” Sheesh.

“You got your cover?”

*Grumble* “Not yet. I have seen a draft of the final. Don’t get me started on that.” It’s out of my control. Besides, my agent is looped in on that. She knows what’s going on.

“You’re at the three-month mark.”

“I know. I can’t do anything about it.” Except grumble. “Okay. Here it is. I’ve got an offer for the audiobook version of Murder in Plane Sight.

A smile brightens his face. He wraps his arms around me and gives me a huge bear hug, forcing my face into his shirt. Mmmm, smells like the sea and coconut.

“Congratulations, love!” He releases me. “Well done.”

“I have to give my agent credit. She’s awesome!”

“So, when the book comes out, you’ll have Book 2 ready to go.” It wasn’t a question.

Figures. “I’ve got promo stuff to work on. And I have to revamp my website. And get a newsletter going.”

“Book 2,” he says again, this time adding a scolding finger. “At least you found the plot issues during NaNo.” He rubs his hands together. “Now, about this wall. Needs something over there.”

Sigh.

It’s the last weekend without kids before Christmas break. My plan: writing. Lots of writing.

How about you?

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Slow start

If you’re looking for Julie, I sent her on a walkabout. A long one, on the forest trail. With any luck she’ll snag some inspiration. A Muse can only do so much. Lead a horse to water and all that.

I tried to send her on a week-long walkabout, but she won’t listen to me. She’s got this damn fixation on doing a NaNoWriMo this month. There’s even an “official” Camp NaNoWriMo going on. Another first draft, she said. This is her third “first” draft.

Bloody hell.

I know what her problem is. Focus. Per usual. She’s got too many fecking things bouncing around in that head of hers, not the least of which is …

*slam*

“Are you kidding me? You sent me on a walk so you could do my blog post for me? What the hell?” My writer storms across the office and stops in front of the desk, hands on hips.

“You needed the walk, love. Tell me you didn’t work on the plot during your walk.” I venture one of my charming crooked smiles. “I dare you.”

Heh. I can see it in her eyes. She did, but she doesn’t want to admit it. “I can’t add words to my draft if I’m out walking. I’m behind, which you well know, and I won’t be able to catch up this weekend because I’m going to my dad’s.”

“You know, love, there is such a thing as voice-to-text.”

She rolls her eyes and groans. “Do you know what I do on my walks? Dude, I talk things through. That’s not writing, and if I used speech-to-text, it would be a mess. Seriously. Now get out of my chair and let me finish my post.”

If I could get her to direct that fire into her writing, she’d have no problem making her word quota. Easier said than done, of course. “No.”

Her jaw drops just a little. I love surprising her. She cocks a hip and crosses her arms on her chest. “I thought writing blog posts was outside your job description.”

It is. Sort of. “And here I thought you would appreciate the help since you will be away at your dad’s this weekend. That way you can focus on your first draft. Again.”

She offers a wry smile. “Very funny. You’re the Muse. You’re supposed to help me with this.”

“I’ve been trying, love. You’ve finally gotten the story rolling, haven’t you?”

“Sure. After three false starts. Half my word count is stuff I’m not going to use.”

“It’s a first draft. There’s going to be a whole lot of stuff you won’t use. That’s why it’s a draft.” I get to my feet and round the desk to face her. “I’m here, and I’ll be sticking around.” I lower my face to hers. “Don’t make me dig out my fedora and bullwhip.”

*stare-down silence*

“Fine.” Damn it. I shove around my Muse and drop into my chair, still nice and warm from him.

Anyway. Excuse me just one minute…

“Stop that.”

“What?”

God, he’s just so … er, aggravating sometimes. Yeah, let’s go with that. “Stop staring at me.”

He gives me that crooked grin of his. Is it warmer in here? “Then get to work, love.”

Arrgh. Okay. Bottom line, I’m behind on my first week word count. Like, way behind. I’m going to bring my computer or my iPad to my dad’s; between helping him sort stuff for the auction and digging through a couple boxes left with my name on them, maybe I’ll get a little time to do some writing.

Enjoy your weekend!


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Finally, a break?

I’m going to call it a break, anyway. The past few weeks–actually, since the beginning of May, I think–I’ve had stuff going on every weekend (including my mini-writing retreats at my dad’s). Last weekend was my daughter’s grad party. It feels official now. Next on the docket will be orientation for college, but that’ll be in a month or so.

“You’ve got a month, love. Does that mean you’re going to get your butt in gear?” My Muse closes the back door of my writing office, shoves his Ray-Bans up onto his head, and plants hands on his hips. His blond hair is sun-bleached, a perfect complement to his faded muscle shirt and cut-off shorts. Even his flip-flops enhance the beach bum effect. A scent of coconut and ocean hangs around him.

“Where the hell have you been?”

A tall glass with a paper umbrella materializes on the small table between the two recliners in a corner of my office as he drops into one of the chairs. “On walkabout after those mini-retreats at your dad’s. You did good, you know. Got the manuscript off by deadline.” He leans back, sips his drink. Sweat coats the outside of the glass, the inside filled with something orangy. He smacks his lips. “You done with the outline yet? You better get that done if you want to do a self-imposed NaNo in July.”

“I’m working on it. Comfy?”

He stretches, hands behind his head, footrest extended. He slides his sunglasses back into place “Yep. Too hot outside this weekend, anyway. You might as well work on the outline.”

“That’s the plan. Are you sticking around to help? Or are you waiting for Mr. E to go on some surfer’s bar hop?”

He takes another sip of whatever tropical drink he’s got. “He got sunburned and went home. He can’t surf, anyway. Oh, which reminds me–be careful with my board. I just waxed it.”

I’m working on my outline for Book 2 and he’s surfing? “You know Book 2 is not set at any sort of beach, right?”

“Sure it is. Isn’t there a family cabin at a lake involved with this?”

“But the story isn’t set there. That’s reserved for the novella.” I lean back against my desk. “You’re sticking around to help me this weekend, right?”

“Of course, love. I might have to pop out for a few wave-catching breaks. You got a board?” He lifts his glasses and peers at me. “You’re more ‘wade in the surf’, aren’t you? You’re missing out.”

Somehow, I don’t feel I’m missing much. Hell, my swimsuit’s been packed away for, er… Anyway, this weekend the tropics are settling in Minnesota, with record-threatening heat indexes. In June. Ugh. So we’ll crank the A/C and stay in. We’ll have some summer storms to go along with the heat. I’m good with that, as long as we don’t get too much at once. Maybe I’ll post pics of the garden next week–you’ll be happy to know that yes, it is truly smaller this year (YAY!).

Stay cool this weekend! Write on!

 


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Musing Mysteries – Part 4

“Are you ready for the next item on the list, love?”

I close the door to my writer’s writing office, but the place is deserted.

Where the hell is she? “Julie.” She must be out back.

A window appears in the back door, showing a serene view of the lake, dark blue under the brilliant almost-spring sky. The Adirondack chairs are empty. I leave the quiet of the office and pass into the hushed environs of the lake and its surrounds. Nothin’. There’s just enough of a breeze to hint that the balmy weather–if you consider 40 degrees F balmy–will be short-lived.

Where the feck is she? “Julie?”

*She’s not here.*

“No shit.”

Her damn book-dragon backwings onto the path between me and the lake, sunlight giving her scales sparkles like a first grader gone nuts with the glitter. She lowers her head and peers at me with glowing red eyes. *If you know, then why are you still looking for her?*dragon1_cr

“Because she’s supposed to be here. We’re supposed to be going over her presentation for the conference. She’s supposed to be working on revising the plot for Book 2.”

*Did you look for a note?*

A note? “Why would she leave me a note? She never leaves me a note.” She just bloody disappears.

*Did you look?*

“I’ve known her a lot longer than you have.” Fecking junior muses always think they know more than you do. “She doesn’t leave notes. She just goes off to do who knows what, then shows up whenever she feels like it.”

*Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?*

I narrow my eyes. “Are you trying to say something?”

The dragon shrugs her massive shoulders. *She said to tell you she knows the next items on the list, and she will spare you the whole mis-direction part of the clues. You can thank her later.* She turns, spreads her sparkly green wings, and shoves off, climbing out over the lake.

Damn writers. No, my damn writer. I head back to the writing office. Julie never leaves notes. I suppose that dragon had a point, but I’m a Muse, with a capital ‘M’. I’ve been doing this gig long enough; I don’t need to …

Sure as shit, there’s a sheet of paper folded on the seat of one of the recliners. I grab a brew from the friggie before I read it:

If you found this note, it means I’m not there.

Yeah, no shit. So where are you?

Nice of you to show up when I’m not there. Timing. It’s about timing, and sometimes yours sucks.

Don’t hold back, love.

Figured I’d repay the favor. Check the top desk drawer if you really want to know where I am. And check the treat basket. And I was going to go all sneaky on the clues, but dammit, I’m tired, and I’m working on the new plot. Otherwise, I should be back tomorrow. I’d sign my name, but you know who I am. ­čśŤ

What the feck? Why wouldn’t she just tell me where she’s at? I’m by the recliners, so I check the basket first. Chocolate. More chocolate. Pickled peppers. Popcorn. A small envelope of flower seeds–forget-me-nots.

Flower seeds? She doesn’t grow flowers, at least not unless she’s got extra seed. I dig around more, but that’s about it besides more chocolate. And a bottle opener.

I toss the seed packet on the desk and pull open the center drawer. Pens. Pencils. Sticky notes. Highlighters. A picture of her niece and some guy. They look happy. I toss that on the desk beside the flower seeds. Index cards. Nothing else that shouldn’t be here.

The top desk drawer on the side holds her backup drive, about four notebooks–what is it with writers and their notebooks? Some writing book about emotional stuff by Donald Maass. The keyboard for her iPad. An invitation.

It’s a wedding invitation, but this one is dated the end of the month. We just started the month.

I check the picture on the desk again. Her niece and the guy. The flower seeds. A fancy flower seed packet now that I look at it.

Bloody hell.

I check the calendar on the wall beside the door. Her niece–the one in the picture–is getting married. Today. Julie’s going to a wedding today.

Fecking lovely. She couldn’t just let me know?

Fine. I drop into a recliner and get comfortable. The bullwhip looks nice on top of the desk. Maybe I’ll add the fedora for effect. If she thinks she can come back later and mosey her way back to work, she’s greatly mistaken.

Hey, what are you still doing here? Julie’s gone today, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to entertain you. Besides, your muses called. Get your butts in your chairs and WRITE!

Oh, and have a good weekend.


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The Write Stuff?

I’m going to do it. I am. I am going to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo this month.

Yep. Gonna. Not book 2, though. I think I need to let that sit for a bit (as if I’ve touched it much in the past month). I’m going to rewrite my other WIP. And I’m going to get the draft finished before the Writers’ Institute.

You heard me.

“Yes, I heard you, love.”

Gulp. My Muse is standing in front of my writing desk, strong arms crossed on his broad chest. He’s wearing a medium blue sweatshirt proclaiming “Bold North”, the Minnesota theme for Super Bowl 52.

I suppose they wanted to head off the inevitable “Cold North”. Secretly, I’m glad we’re colder than average this week. We should be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 F. We’ve had high temps this week in the single digits. And now:

Capture

Just proves we really are cold in the winter (not that anyone doubted it). Heh. Yes, we live where the air can hurt your face. And we still spend time outside (as evidenced by the St Paul Winter Carnival going on besides all the activities and outdoor concerts for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis).

Back to the “Bold North” sweatshirt. “So, er, did you enjoy the ‘Super Bowl Experience’?” I, on the other hand, was catching up with a bunch of paperwork, including FSA and tax stuff. Ugh.

He looks at his shirt. “Meh. Best part was listening to all those people from warmer climates ‘enjoying’ the weather here.”

“You, ah, do any pub crawls?” Here’s hoping he doesn’t catch on to the fact I’m trying to distract him.

“Actually, yes. Mr. E and I found a new bar. It’s got atmosphere, and no karaoke. I hate karaoke. So, love, when are you planning to start this NaNo February? Which, according to the calendar, you should have started last night.”

“You were apparently at a new bar last night, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some paperwork. Atmosphere, huh? What else did that bar have? Did you guys get in a few rounds of pool? Darts? No bar fights?”

“We never get into bar fights.” He frowns, those piercing blue eyes of his narrowed. “Stop trying to distract me, love. I already told Mr. E no pub crawls for a few weeks. Should be enough time for you to do your ‘NaNo’. Then we’re gong to dig back into Book 2.”

“I haven’t heard back from my editor yet. I’ll have to work on that manuscript first.”

“Of course.” He plants hands on my desk and leans over me. “But until then, you will work on that WIP.”

“Hey, I’ve got some stuff to do for the Writers’ Institute in April, and I’ve got some interview questions I need to answer and send back by next week.”

“Excuses.”

“Legit.” I pull out the sheet of questions from a marketing person at UW-Madison. “See.”

He doesn’t look. “Uh-huh. Don’t think I’m going to go off on any more pub crawls and leave you unsupervised until you hit 50k words on your WIP.”

“Good.” I think. Yep, pretty sure it’s good.

“And no Super Bowl. The Vikings aren’t playing anyway.”

“I’m okay with that.”

He straightens, makes a beeline for one of the recliners in a corner of my writing office, and settles in. “I’ll be watching you.”

Sheesh. At least there’s no bullwhip in sight. indianna-jones-hat-whip

“Looking for this?” My Muse holds up a leather coil.

Hoo-boy.

 

I’ll be writing this weekend. Will you?


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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!


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Good intentions gone where?

I check the calendar hanging on the wall beside the whiteboard in my writing office. Tomorrow is October.

October? Already? Holy speeding month, Batman!

And how much did I get done writing-wise? Not 50k words, that’s for damn sure. Did I get through my edits? Hell, no. I canned over 50 quarts of tomatoes, and I’ll probably have to do one more batch. I subbed at the library for my daughter twice a week all month. And got her tech registration and Chromebook for school (yeah, almost 3 hrs of standing in line). And procrastinated on my self-imposed NaNo.

Sigh.

A squeak from the desk chair interrupts. I turn. My Muse leans back in my chair, shakes his head. “You’re pathetic, love.”

“Hey, I’ve been busy all freaking month. I’ve got half of my edits done.”

Your edits, which are minimal. You don’t even know what your editor is going to want.” He gets to his feet, the chair squeaking again in protest. I need to find some WD-40 for that.

“I’ve been doing stuff. I’m starting to plan my marketing and promo. I even registered a web domain. Now I just have to figure out how to switch over from my WordPress domain to my registered one. And I’m going to the local Sisters in Crime monthly meeting next week. My sister-in-law said she’d go to Once Upon a Crime with me. John Sandford is going to be there in a few weeks.” I should read a few of his books before then. I mark the dates on the calendar. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

“I can’t do a whole lot yet. I don’t even have the final title. My publisher might want to change it. And I’m so far behind in reading blogs that my blogging friends probably think I ghosted them.”

He leans against my desk, arms crossed on that fine chest of his. “You need to get your shit together and you know it. Marketing stuff, sure, but what were you going to work on this month? Oh, yeah, the second book in the series.”

“It’s drafted,” I protest. “It needs major work, but at least it’s drafted.”

“Uh-huh. And what about your other book, the one your agent said has potential but needs work? You haven’t even gotten through all her comments. When are you going to work on that one? And you’ve got paperwork to fill out for your publisher.”

“That’s more marketing and promo stuff. I need to brainstorm on that. I’ve got other marketing stuff I’m working on, too. There’s been a lot of good blogs posts lately on promo stuff. And networking. I’m going to do a session on writing mysteries at the Writers’ Institute next spring.”

“That’s not until spring.” He straightens, adjusts the fedora that appears out of nowhere, then sets his hands on his hips. I try not to notice the bullwhip now hanging from his belt. “When are you going to write, love?”

It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself. I’ve had something going on after work almost every day this month. There’s been a little time, but I don’t want my family to think I’m totally disconnected. And sure, I have an awesome writing office in my imaginary writing paradise, but in real life, a recliner in the bedroom has lost its appeal. I’ve started planning a takeover of my son’s room. Even though he doesn’t come home all that often while school’s in session, he’s still got a lot of stuff in his room.

“The tomatoes are almost done, so I won’t have to pick and can those. Tennis is almost over, so my daughter will be able to work her shifts at the library again. I’ll have time.”

My Muse approaches, stops inches from me. “You will make time, love. No more muse pub crawls until you get your shit together, so don’t think I’m going to give you any breaks. You are going to write.”

“I’ve got to do promo …”

His finger poking my chest cuts me off. “You’ve got to write. And my job is to make sure you do it. Got it?”

Gulp. “Got it.”

Yeesh. He’s right, though, as usual. I think things will quiet down a bit; they always do about this time of year. So, butt in chair, hands on keyboard. I can do this. I’ve done it before. Deep breath.

You know what I’ll be doing this weekend. Mostly. I’ve got grass to mow around the garden so I don’t need a machete to get to the raspberries.

“I’m still here, love. Why is your butt not in that chair?”

Dammit. Okay, gotta go. Have a great writing weekend!