Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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. 😛

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!


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A summer of distractions

Welcome to the first week of summer–though you’d never know it here in MN. Our temps are in the 70s, when usually we’ve got 80s by now (that’s Fahrenheit for those from Down Under or across the pond). And I’m not complaining. I like cooler rather than the gawd-awful heat they’re getting out west. I mean, over 110 degrees in AZ? OMG.

I’d rather complain about the mosquitos. I was out in the garden the other night (pulling weeds because, well, they seem to think they own the place), and it was like a cloud of tiny vampires. I had mosquito repellent on, plus a long-sleeved shirt, plus a net I wear over my head so I don’t have to put repellent on my face. The air around me buzzed. Ugh. And no dragonflies in sight. With such a feast, maybe the dragonflies were full 🙂

*looks around the writing office* Anyone see my Muse? No? Whew. He’s been threatening to tie me to my chair so I’ll have no choice but to write. I know he’s doing his job, but I’m really having trouble getting back into my WIP. I took a mini-retreat last weekend to my dad’s, since he went to visit my sister. I got through the scene I was stuck on, now I’m stuck again. I’m thinking I need some writing sister help.

Speaking of, I’m starting to count down to our reunion–one month and change. We always have a great time, and so much creative energy!

“A-hem.”

Okay, um, he’s behind me, isn’t he? Damn, I knew if I mentioned him he’d show up. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him, he’ll go away.

“You know I won’t, love.”

Gulp. I’ll update the board. Yep, I was meaning to do that. I rearrange the active and inactive lists. My agent touched base with all the editors who have the manuscript, so there’s eight on the active list. Two of them have been unresponsive, so the inactive list has two entries.

“Now that you’re done playing around, sit down and write.”

I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I turn around. “Oh, hi. I was just thinking about you.” My Muse is rougish today, in an oddly-attractive getup of faded jeans, holey red t-shirt that probably needs to retire to the rag pile, and faded flannel shirt that might have been red and black, but now is reddish and gray. If he’s shaved in the past week, the rough stubble on his face doesn’t show it.

“What happened to Indiana Jones? Did Harrison Ford call and ask for his fedora back?”

He crosses his arms on his chest and shoots me a stern look, the one that says “don’t give me any bullshit”, a distinct lack of humor in his eyes. “Har, har. Maybe I should take a page from the Hell’s Angels instead. Would you listen to me then? Biker leathers and chains?”

Puke. Not a fan. “No, no, this is fine. I’m good with rough and outdoorsy. It is outdoorsy, right? Not ‘I lost my construction job and I’m sulking in front of the TV’. By the way, don’t do the beard thing. Not a good look for you.”

He frowns. “You’re planning on writing this weekend, right?”

“I always plan on writing on the weekends. I’ve got my cousin’s graduation today. We’ll be gone all afternoon. And if it stays dry, I’ve got a jungle of weeds to pull. It’s summer. C’mon, this happens every summer.”

“And every summer I have to bust my ass to get you to sit down and write. Your reunion is  coming up. You have to send the first 20 pages of your WIP to your sisters in a couple weeks.”

“I think I need their help with this one. I’m not feelin’ it. There’s something missing.”

“Yeah, you at your desk, writing.” He heaves a sigh, like this is a burden he has to put up with. Come to think of it, that’s probably accurate. “Please?”

Wait. What? “Did you just say ‘please’?”

He takes another step closer and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Tell you what.” He squeezes my shoulders. “You sit down and write, and I’ll get a new bucket of ideas to toss at the brainstorming wall.”

That’ll work, I think. I’ll have an hour and a half drive to my cousin’s house and another hour and a half back today to mull over ideas. I’d include a few pics here, but I haven’t taken any new ones since it’s been so wet outside. We did let the chicks into the bigger pen now, but when I tried to take their picture, they were really shy and stayed in the coop. And I tried to get a good pic of our nightly visitor, but the lousy lighting doesn’t help. I’ll try to get a better pic and tell the story next week.

Until then, have a great weekend and WRITE!

 


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Update and a little break

No foolin’ today. I’ve got plans. Sure, they’re plans I’d like to put off, but there is a benefit to inviting one’s relatives over for a family gathering. You can only procrastinate so long before you absolutely have to get things done, like cleaning, organizing, catching up on reading–wait, scratch that last one. Won’t have much time to read this weekend after I get the other stuff done. Ugh.

Today’s supposed to be a wonderful spring day, so I’ve got washing windows and cleaning the refrigerator on my list, along with all the incidentals like vacuuming and organizing. I’m a lot farther behind this year than I usually am because of my self-imposed NaNo from last month.

Which, by the way, I managed to complete by the 30th–woo-hoo! The story isn’t done, and I won’t finish it because the plot needs a serious overhaul. I’ll look at that later, after the whole family gathering thing.

Now to the white board in my writing office. The list of publishers reminds me of how far I’ve come on this writing journey of mine. I got an update from my agent yesterday. Five more publishers haven’t indicated much interest, but they haven’t specifically passed. I put question marks behind those.

“Your agent said they could still show interest, love. It just might take a little longer.” My Muse stands beside me, shoulder to shoulder–er, make that my shoulder to his arm. He’s got a height advantage on me. Today he’s wearing painters pants (yes, like those painters pants, complete with a few paint stains, though I’m not sure what he’d paint that particular shade of orange, or purple) and a faded red t-shirt that might’ve shrunk a bit. Not that I’m complaining…

I pointed to the four remaining publishers who still appear interested. “We’re hoping to hear back from these, but she’s going to call next week to talk about possible tweaks to the story based on what little feedback we’ve gotten.”

Most of the feedback we’ve gotten from some of the publishers who’ve passed is just as helpful–or not–as feedback I’ve gotten from agent query rejections. And it’s all over the board. One likes this, but really doesn’t think that works for them. Two others really like that, but have different opinions about the rest.

“How do you plan to tweak things?” My Muse picks up a marker and starts a list off to the side. “One didn’t like this so much, but two others loved it. One didn’t like the pacing, but all the other feedback you’ve gotten indicates the pacing is good.” He makes a check. “There’s the usual ‘just didn’t connect with it’. And one mentioned voice.”

The dreaded ambiguity of “voice”. What is voice, anyway? I’ll have to do some reading on that, I think. Anyone have any suggestions for a good reference on voice? I’ll also look at Janice Hardy’s blog–she’s got a great one for writers called Fiction University. I’m sure there’s at least one post on voice.

He gives me a sideways glance. “Remember, it’s all subjective.”

“I know. I’m going to try to read through my manuscript with the vague feedback in mind before I talk to my agent. Try to come up with ideas for tweaks before she submits to more publishers.”

I’m not sure what kind of tweaks. The main character in the book is a female aircraft mechanic, so there is some–not much–technical stuff. A lot less technical stuff than there was in the earlier drafts. Maybe trimming even more of that. Which I’m reluctant to do because, I suppose, I feel like it gives her more validity, but if that’s hanging people up, then I’ll work with it.

So, I’ll be busy this weekend. Maybe I’ll have to do a post on voice next week. Wait, no. Family gathering next week. Maybe I’ll cheat and just post cat pics.

Like anyone would complain about that 😀

Have a great weekend and keep on writing!


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Writing and waiting

Today I use a green dry-erase marker for my writing office whiteboard. You know, for St. Patrick’s Day (even though St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish to start with). Three more publishers off the list as passes, but I add a new one to the bottom. The editor reached out to my agent, so of course she pitched my manuscript, and the editor asked to see it.

Yay! I mean, anytime another editor gets eyes on it is another chance an editor will love it, right?

My Muse arrives in full regalia: well-worn (in every sense of the word) jeans, tennis shoes, a bright green Guinness t-shirt, and a green hat with the requisite “Kiss me, I’m Irish” motto in shiny gold letters. I’m almost surprised he didn’t do a temporary dye job and go red- or green-haired for the day. Almost.

He hands me a mug of steaming coffee. “With Irish Creme, doncha know,” he says with a grin and a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent. “It’s too early fer green beer, but I’ll bring that along later.”

I feel my eyes narrow and a wince escape my control. “Dude, you’re Australian. You’re not even very good at American accents. Gonna have to work on your Irish accent.”

He sips his own coffee with a loud slurp. “So you say.”

“Seriously. When have you ever had to do an American accent? I mean, outside of a Southern accent, and you slip with that. I can’t think of one project, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of them.”

“You’re going to blow my cover, love.”

“Phhfftt. Like anyone’s going to know.” I sip the coffee, and suck in air. Woof. Cough. “Holy crap. Just how much Irish Creme did you put in here?”

“Enough. I added a little Jameson to even it out.” He takes another horrendously loud slurp and evaluates the board. “Three more passes.” He points to the new addition. “How does this one look?”

“They’re an independent. They’ve got a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and such on their list.” I wander to the window and look out.

A path covered with bark mulch wends into the woods. A white guidepost stands at the end just outside the office. Another appears beside the path around the first bend. Beyond it, fog hangs thick, obscuring the path and the next guidepost.

My Muse stands next to me. I notice now the rainbow and pot o’ gold motif on the mugs. “What’s up with that?” he asks, lifting his mug to point.

I brace myself for another sip of altered coffee and wonder if the caffeine will counter the Jameson. “My new draft.” I sidestep until I can see a guidepost beyond the fog bank. “I kinda know where I’m going, but I’m not sure how to get there. I’m missing a lot of stuff I’ll have to go back and add. I’m still a day behind in my word count because of it.”

“Or are you behind because you missed another day this week?” At my questioning look, he raises an eyebrow. “I’m watching you, love. Are you going to make your NaNo?”

“Yes, I’ll catch up. I’m taking Monday off from the day job.”

He tsks. “And how much writing do you suppose you’ll put in tomorrow? You’re going to be ‘out’ all day.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s a writers festival.” A local one I’ve never heard of before. Apparently the group has been doing an annual gig in Bloomington. This is their first year in Rosemount. I found out about it through the local Sisters In Crime newsletter. “It’s not downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul. It’s for writing. Not a substitute for the super-awesome UW Writers’ Institute in Madison, but it’s something.”

“Then you’ll have to buckle down, love. You’re going to miss your mark otherwise.”

Yep, I know. And I still haven’t started getting ready for the family Easter gathering. Sigh. I need to start getting the house cleaned (ugh) and organized (double-ugh), since we’re celebrating the weekend before Easter.

The publisher news is disappointing, but I expected to get passes. And there’s still nine publishers who haven’t reported in, including the new one. There’s still opportunity. I haven’t talked to my agent about what happens if none of the publishers like the manuscript. I expect she’ll pick another bunch of publishers to try. The feedback we’re getting is more “we like this part a lot, but this part doesn’t resonate with us” than “thanks but no thanks”. The brief critiques aren’t particularly useful, but it’s nice to know why they passed, and what they liked. It’s kind of interesting when one passes because of something they didn’t think worked for them but others really liked.

So, off to a writing thing tomorrow, then hammer away at the draft. Have a Happy St. Pat’s Day for those who celebrate. Also, Happy Vernal Equinox a few days early 🙂

Write on!

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Don’t wake me until the weekend!