Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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!

IMG_0017_cr

Don’t wake me until the weekend!


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Slogging

Here I am, ready to start writing my post, and WTF happened to my WordPress editor? Seriously. Did they bother telling anyone they were changing it?

So off to the WP Admin page, then to the Posts page, then the older editor. Whew! This I understand. Don’t get all fancy-schmancy on me. I don’t need pretty, I just need it to work without me getting confused.

Sigh. Okay, now on to the real post…

*crickets*

Ugh. Now I forgot what I wanted to write about. Figures. Oh, wait, I remember 🙂 I was going to write about how cruel Mother Nature is by teasing us–in March, mind you–with temps in the 60s (F). Before St. Patrick’s Day. In Minnesota. Of course, she tempers it with winds kicking at 40 mph. It would’ve been really nice otherwise. Spring is here!

Yeah–no. Yesterday, high in the 20s Today the same. Actually, cold all week, and a snowstorm for tomorrow. Gotta love MN!

Okay, maybe not what I was going to write about, but I need some words. As in, here I am in week 2 of my NaNo and I’m about 3k words  behind where I should be. Hell, I should be about a thousand words ahead. Ugh.

And then there’s my Muse, who has been conspicuously absent despite my request he stick around.

*door slams*

Speaking of the devil. Then again… “What the hell happened to you?”

My muse shuffles in front of my writing board. “Still only two crossed off.” He toes his sneakers off and kicks them into a corner.

He’s referring to the list of publishers that have my manuscript in their editor’s hands. “My agent didn’t pass along any news this week. I suppose she reached out to them last week, so next week she’ll check on them again.” He’s wearing a fleece-lined flannel hooded jacket, you know, the ones with the cream-colored sheep’s wool-kinda lining inside. His jeans are faded, with a long black smear on the back of a leg and dried leaves sticking to the flannel.

“Again, what the hell happened to you? Muse football game?”

He brushes the leaves off his jacket, then rubs the black streak. Now I see his jeans are actually wet–damp?–from the knees down. “Wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“So you what, slipped into the creek?”

He turns, hits me with a glare. “Yes, I slipped into the creek. Your point?”

“My point is you are goofing off in the woods when I need you here.”

He plants hands on his hips and snorts. “You need me here, love? Then you bloody well better sit your ass down and write. I’ve been here.”

“Falling into creeks?”

“No. Trying to inspire you to get the story moving. I keep tossing ideas at you.” He crosses his arms on his chest and rocks on his heels. “Somehow, you’re not quite catching them. You walk when you need to think, so do I.” He crossed the office to lean over me and read my laptop screen. “That sucks.”

The latest chapter of my draft is on the screen. “No shit. So, where have you been?”

“Not proof-reading.”

I shove the computer forward. “It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck. I haven’t written a first draft for a couple years–I’m trying to keep my inner editor in her cage.” Argh. “I’m finally getting to the next biggish plot point, so hopefully it’ll be easier to keep going now.”

My Muse shakes his head. “It still sucks. Let me change and we’ll try to get this thing going. You feeling it yet?”

Feeling it? Feeling the creative energy fuel my story? “Not so much.”

He frowns. Sighs. “I’ll see what I can come up with. But it’s the weekend, and damn it, you will catch up your word count.”

Yep. That’s the goal. And I need to get my ass in gear; we’re entertaining family for Easter on the weekend before Easter, so I’ve got to start organizing and cleaning. You know, like the annual refrigerator toss-out (toss out anything that looks or smells like a science experiment), and the why-am-I-keeping-this-stuff derby.

And now I can record these words for my count–yippee! I could drone on about something just for more words, but that could get kinda dull and boring and you’ve probably already checked out so I’m not sure why I’m still writing this post but I think I can claim about seven hundred and forty words now. Sweet!

Have a great weekend!


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Stormin’ the brain

I enter my writing office, coffee mug in hand. It’s a fun one I received as a gift. Every writer needs a fun mug! plotting-mug_cr“G’day, love. It’s about time you showed up.”

My Muse is standing in front of the whiteboard wall, marker in hand. Today he’s sporting an Atlanta Falcons jersey and jeans, with a New England Patriots cap.

“Can’t decide who to root for?” I ask, gesturing with my mug at his ensemble. “The Super Bowl is next weekend, not this weekend.”

“Figured I’d start early. It was either these or …”

“The burgundy henley?” I finish.

He aims those baby blues at me. “You really like that shirt, don’t you?”

I really like how he looks in that shirt, but I’m not going to tell him that. He might never wear it again. I sidle up next to him. “Sooo, whatcha doing?”

“Trying to come up with alternate titles for your book, as you well know.” He adds another word to the collection on the board. They’re mostly aviation-related, words like “terminal”, “plane”, and “stall”. Some are words that often show up in mystery and thriller titles, like “death”, “dark”, and “fear”. He  writes “bag-smasher” off to the side.

“Really?” I erase it. “Do you think ‘bag-smasher’ conveys a sense of mystery and suspense?”

“Hey, I’m just tossing out ideas.” He drapes an arm around my shoulders. “I really like that one.” He points. “How about ‘Terminal Cargo’? Or ‘Frozen Stall’? ‘Crash and Freeze’? What about ‘Deadly Wings’?”

“Ugh. No.” The words on the board start to swim in my vision. We’re brainstorming different titles for my book at my agent’s request. “It needs to be aviation-esque, but still have a connotation of suspense.”

He stares at me. “‘Aviation-esque’? Really?”

I duck out from under his arm and head to my desk. “We can think about the title later. Right now I need your help with the proposal.”

My Muse leans against the board, arms crossed. “Are you ready to sit down and get started on that? That one’s not going to be easy, love.”

“I never expected it to be easy.” I drop into my chair and set my mug aside. “It’s like a spiffed-up synopsis.” The same dread that I feel when I think about writing a synopsis blows a chill through me now. It’s like a cover blurb, or the blurbs you see on Amazon. But more.

“Want to tackle the bio first?” he asks.

Tempting. Very tempting. “Nope.”

He drags a director’s chair to my desk and sits across from me. “It’ll be easier.”

“True, but we gotta get the pitch part done, and that’ll take the longest.”

A slow smile brightens his face. “I’m proud of you, love. No procrastinating.”

“Yet.”

I always seem to find other things to do instead of the hard stuff, like writing a synopsis or figuring out a plot hole. I’ve got an example of a proposal, and I’ll have to research some on Amazon. For ideas, not procrastination.

No. Really.

My agent accepted my revision, with a few minor edits, so the next thing on the list is to come up with another title (current title: Just Plane Dead), write a bio that wows, and create a proposal she can present to editors. I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about it. I’m sure my Muse and I can come up with something super awesome. I still think writing the book and revising it are way easier.

Oh, and for those who stop by for cat pics (you know who you are 😉 ):

I’m pulling from the archives. Zoey is our orange cat, and Socks was our other one until she went MIA. We still miss her. She was so nice and fuzzy and nice. Zoey’s kind of a grump; she doesn’t even like to be picked up, but she sure likes to be petted.

Go forth and write this weekend! I will be 🙂


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Oh, the weather outside …

is frightful. It is. Really. Woke up to another few inches of snow, and it’s still going.

img_0007_cr The weather people predicted another four to eight inches by the time the whole thing is done. At least done snowing. After the snow, the wind is supposed to kick up, and by tomorrow our high daytime temp–not including the wind chill–is supposed to be -5 F. Add the windchill in for a grand low more than -20 F.

Yippee.

Not. It usually doesn’t get this (effing) cold until January.

I don’t have to go anywhere, and the furnace is working. I can write all weekend!!

Except this is the last weekend before Christmas, so I need to get going on my cookie baking and jelly making. With the sheer volume of raspberries this fall from my ragtag patch, I should be able to make a couple batches of jelly. And cookies. I can’t start making them too early or they end up getting eaten. At least this year I can use Nature’s freezer. The last couple years it’s been too warm outside (Shock, right? Minnesota in December above freezing? It’s getting more usual. Global warming and all that.) Try fitting a dozen cookie dozens in the freezer along with the usual freezer stuff. Not easy, which means I had to do all the baking in the couple days before Christmas.

So, I’ll dedicate a few hours to staring at my computer screen and trying to work through the first few scenes in my latest WIP, then I’ll peg some time for jelly-making (it makes great gifts) and cookie-baking. I got a new KitchenAid mixer during Black Friday I’m itching to try out. Should be fun!

Do you have your holiday preparations finished? Presents wrapped? My kids are old enough now that if I don’t get the gifts wrapped, they’re okay with it. Cookies baked? I’ve got four or five (depending on how ambitious I feel and if I have the ingredients) different cookie varieties I make every year, one of which is my dad’s favorite cookie of all time: chocolate chip. I love making them, but he’s diabetic, so I always worry about leaving extra cookies with him. I toss them in the freezer so they’ll maybe last an extra day or two.

Hey, if you don’t get any writing done over the next week or so, don’t sweat it (Pretty hard to sweat when it’s double-digits below zero). If you get a free half-hour, jot down a few story ideas. Work through a scene. Send out a couple queries. Put together a character sketch.

Don’t. Stop. Writing. Give yourself permission to do smaller bits. The best part about family gatherings? Lots of fodder for future stories! Remember that when your sister’s bratty son throws a tantrum when his cousin gets the present he wanted, or when Grandpa’s dentures fall into the figgy pudding.

Not sure if I’ll get a post done next weekend, so if I miss it:

Happy Holidays!


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The Other Side

My writer is still staring at the page in her notebook. I have to shake my head. She’s been good, she really has, but now she’s, well, I’m not quite sure. Trying to shove creative energy into her now is like trying to cram an overstuffed pillow into a pillowcase. I never thought she’d get like this after she’d been doing so well.

“Are you seriously writing my blog post?”

I glance up at her kicked back in one of the recliners in the corner of her writing office. She looks like a writer deep in thought.

I know better.

“Yes, love. Trying to, anyway. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I already drafted a post. I was going to …”

“Delete it? Good idea.” I’m not sure what her problem is, but I suspect it has to do with anxiously waiting for something out of her control. She’s usually pretty good, but this time it’s strangling her creativity. Binge-watching “Supernatural” isn’t helping, either. Honestly, I’m a little jealous.

“No.” She heaves a sigh and tosses her notebook into the other recliner before getting to her feet. “Why are you writing a post anyway?”

I lean back in the desk chair. The bushings squeak like tiny mice. “Because I can’t do anything else right now. You’re blocking me, love.”

She stares at me. “I’m what?”

“You’re blocking me.” It’s been a long time since this has happened. She wasn’t happy about how I fixed it last time, but it was effective.

“What do you mean, blocking you? You’re here, not off on a pub crawl with Mr. E, which, by the way, you should avoid until he’s off house-arrest. Mae’s got him on lockdown until she finishes her project.” She plants her hands and leans on the desk. “I’m stuck.”

“No, you’re not. You’ve got your rough outline, you just need to revisit it.”

“That’s what I’m doing.”

She’s been frustrating–aggravating–in the past, but this is a special kind of frustration. “No, you’re not. Open up to me, love. Stop thinking about what might happen. I can’t do my job when you’re like this.”

Her forehead furrows. A lock of hair escapes her barrette and falls into her eyes. Faded denim. That’s what they look like. Her eyes. You should see them when she’s talking about her last WIP, all bright and excited. I love it. She really hit on something with that. I think she misses it, the whole aviation thing. It was dead easy to energize her when she was working on that last project.

Maybe I’ve gotten too used to the “easy” of it. I wonder …

“I’m trying not to. That’s why I’m working on this WIP. I’ve almost got the historical plotline worked out.”

“You could do what your writing teacher suggested. Write a short or two with Sierra and Quinn.”

Her eyes brighten for a moment. “What if that book doesn’t go anywhere? I need to work on this one. I can’t wait around for something to happen with that one. If I can get this one–”

“Then do it, love.” I shove to my feet and lean over the desk. “Stop pushing back and let me do my job. Remember what happened the last time you blocked me?”

“You keep saying that. I’m not blocking you.”

I have to smile. She’s so cute when she forgets I’m her Muse with a capital “M”. There’s a few scenes in her WIP that will work just fine as reminders. I’ll start with the heated argument scene. Nothing like a bit of angst with that whole suppressed desire thing going on.

She straightens. Stops breathing for a moment while her eyes widen. Heh. Gotcha.

“Stop that,” she breaths.

I send creative energy toward her. It hovers, starts to sink in. Stops. Bloody hell. “Remember now? Stop blocking me or I’ll move on to the basement scene.”

“Don’t you dare,” she breathes.

There it is. An opening. I shove creative energy again and this time it sinks in. “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

She rolls her eyes and returns to her recliner. “Asshat.”

Jensen Ackles, aka Dean Winchester on "Supernatural"

Jensen Ackles, aka Dean Winchester on “Supernatural”

Yep, too much “Supernatural.” “Jerkface.”

Get your writing groove on this weekend, or I’ll have to talk to your muses.

And yes, I can do that. I’ve got a capital “M”.


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The Days After

Hope you all (in the US) enjoyed your Thanksgiving occasion without too much politicking, eating of yummy stuff, and shopping.

Ugh. Shopping. I’m an armchair shopper; you couldn’t pay me enough to battle the masses for in-store deals.

Well, okay, if I was getting a free shopping spree or something I’d manage.

I’ve got both Thanksgiving Day and the infamous “Black Friday” off of work as paid holidays (Yay!!) My son is home from college, my daughter has no school, and I didn’t have to cook for Turkey Day. I had two things that I wanted to take BF pricing advantage of.

There. Shopping done–for now. The kids haven’t gotten their lists together yet. I’ve got an extended weekend to catch up on stuff. I should clean… Um, I’m sure I have a reason to procrastinate on that.

Just before Turkey Day I sent my revised WIP to the agent who requested the revise and resubmit.

Hurry up and wait. And pray. And cross my fingers.

Now what? Dig into another book that needs revision? Which one? Another romantic mystery? My contemporary fantasy? Oh, I know. I need to come up with ideas for more books using my WIP characters (suggested by said agent).

I never thought about more adventures with those characters. My detective mystery, yes–I’ve got the next three books drafted. This one, though, not so much. Maybe I just haven’t gone that far yet; I’ve been focusing on polishing this installment.

I love the characters, and I love the setting and the premise, but I honestly never thought much beyond this book, though in the back of my mind I knew the possibility existed that I’d need to come up with something more for them.

No time like the present.

Sometimes stories start out as multiple episodes, like my detective series. But what if the story doesn’t start out that way? How do you come up with additional adventures for your characters?

Brainstorm! *sets up the brainstorming wall*

Yep. *looks around for colorful brain clouds amassing for a deluge* Uh-huh. *searches the horizon* O-kay. Any time, now.

I got nothin’.

Now what? You created the characters, breathed life into them, put them through conflicts and trials and heartache and, eventually, success of some sort. They survive to the end of the story, and you wish them good luck and move on to another story with other characters.

Except you need to go back to those characters, knock on their doors, and present them with a new itinerary.

Granted, nothing is for sure in this business, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive. So, how does one go about creating more adventures for characters you love but just didn’t expect to spend more time with?

Everyone’s process is different. I know the appeal of my characters lies in their professions and the setting, so those are good places to start. My main protagonist works in the aviation industry, something I think people will want to read about, so I need to stick with that. Airports. Air shows. Air museums. Air guitars–er, maybe not. My other character is in law enforcement, so that falls naturally into a mystery.

My characters are developed, so I can shortcut that a bit, even though each adventure should encourage them to change a little. Now what? I need at least one dead body, multiple suspects, and a solid motive. The victim and/or the suspects and/or the culprit should have some sort of tie to the main characters. There needs to be conflict. My main characters have to be threatened somehow, have to have an “all hope is lost” moment, and need to come out on top in the end.

I cracked open a fresh notebook for the project, a two-subject one so I can use each section for a different story. And stared at the blank page.

So I started with the setting. I figured if I could at least give myself a starting point, I’d have something to work with. Then I added the big 6: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. Then started throwing ideas at the brainstorming wall.

p_20161126_073605_cr The more I tossed ideas around, the more that stuck to the wall as possibilities for the new story. I’m up to five pages of ideas, and the plot is starting to coalesce. I’ve got the tie to my main character, another source of conflict for the main character that leaked in from my WIP, and multiple suspects.

It’s starting to look a lot like a novel-in-the-making. Once I have the story figured out, I can do a rough outline, or (heaven forbid!) a synopsis (cue the spooky music and evil laughter).

Ugh.

Then I can dive into a first draft. I see another self-imposed NaNo month in my future. Maybe February.

How do you come up with “the further adventures of” for characters who didn’t start out starring in more than one book? Days of intense brainstorming? Afternoon walks through the woods? People-watching at the mall?

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing!