Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


This is getting ridiculous #mnspring-not #amrevising

Okay, so remember last week when I mentioned the weather people were predicting more snow? Well, yep, we got more. Not much, maybe half an inch–a lot of it melted. Then rain. Then snow. Then more rain. Then more snow still this afternoon.

Granted, we didn’t get more than a dusting, but damn it, we’re three weeks into April and our highs are barely hitting 40 degrees. And they’re talking windchill again. Seriously?


At least we don’t live in northern MN. They’ve been getting hit hard. Snowstorms with half a foot of snow predicted. Sooo, I should be happy we only got enough to dust everything. Duluth hit an all-time record for snowfall this season.

Well, the garden won’t be going in before Memorial Day weekend. May not even go in then at this rate.

Sorry, it’s just that the sun gave us those few days of summer, then forgot to let spring know it could have the stage again, so winter decided to hang around some more. Gloomy, cloudy, rainy. Wait, we did have sun for a few hours one day–along with a 20 mph wind and a high of 38. And a feels-like temp (windchill) of 25.

What a great excuse to stay inside and write, you say. Well, sure. If only. But I did manage to go through my police procedural and get my bearings. I need time (and quiet space) to focus–luckily I’ve got my retreat at the Shire coming up in a few weeks.

Or do I?

Here I am, anticipating four days of writing bliss in the Shire, when the Universe decides it’s time to make things interesting.

My brother-in-law passed away last fall, a few weeks before our trip to VA for my nephew’s wedding. When we got back home, my husband, our son, and my sister-in-law drove together out to Portola, CA (my other BIL flew out there) to handle my BIL’s affairs. Well, they didn’t get everything finished, so they have to head out there again.

This time, though, my SIL and BIL are driving out together, which leaves my husband to either drive out alone (our son just got back from a vacation, so he can’t take more time off yet) or ride with his siblings. Thing is, my husband needs to bring his stuff–tools, mostly (one of his superpowers is being able to fix almost anything). And he wants to swing through Yellowstone on the way. And he doesn’t really want to drive all that way alone.

See where this is going?

So he asks me if I want to do a road trip with him. The last time we did a road trip together was back in A&P school when we drove out to Seattle over spring break. Great trip. And this would be an opportunity to see Old Faithful, or at least part of Yellowstone. Sure, I’m game, just him and me.

It’s a 2+ day drive there, and he wants to stay a week. I can’t take that much time (well, technically I could, but we’re down one team member at work). I’ve already got the time off for my retreat …

No problem. Shift my days already requested and reschedule my retreat for the fall (with a reschedule fee because it’s less than a month away). I’d fly back, because I’m not staying out there for a week with no internet and I have to work (one-way ticket home) (and who will ride back with him? Maybe our son would fly out and ride back?). Then someone would need to pick me up at the airport, or I get an Uber to my SIL’s house (another cost) where I could pick up a car (which we would conveniently leave there for me to drive home).

Hmm. This is kinda how my life gets.

Okay, now my writer brain is looking at this and giving an evil laugh. Fodder for a story! Many stories! A whole book! Multiple books (in different series 🙂 ) Think of all the things that could happen, from getting lost in the mountains to finding bodies just about anywhere to being attacked by a bear (or other wild animal) to running into any number of possible villains.

My Muse is making himself useful 🙂

I’m always trying to inspire you, love. You don’t always pay attention.


Anyway, nothing is settled yet. Am I bummed about missing my retreat to the Shire? Well, yeah, but I can do it this fall. Am I excited about driving for 2+ days to CA? Not really. What about the flight back? Again, not a fan, but it’s tolerable. Am I going to enjoy the time with hubs? Sure will.

So, we’ll see how things develop. Until then, I’m spending time looking for cheap flights, trying to strategized travel arrangements from the airport, and ugh. There’s something about travelling that I find exhausting, even before I leave.

In any case, crossing fingers that Spring will actually stick around soon. Please.

Happy Writing!

Throwback – kitten therapy


Motivation, or lack of #mnsnow

In less than a week I’ll be in Tucson for Left Coast Crime. I’ve finished reading the books from the authors on my panel. I’ve got my swag ready. I’ve got to drag half a dozen of my books with me because the bookstore decided they couldn’t find my book to supply for the convention (that’s a whole other story).

And I should be working on book 2. I set my “what ifs” aside so I could read 5 books before the convention, but now that I’ve read them, and have some good questions prepared, I find I’m resistant to jump back into my writing until after the convention. I’ve got almost a week–okay, maybe half a week–before I leave, so I’ve got time now.

It’s like I feel I need to “save it until after.” Like for some reason the time between now and when I leave is somehow reserved for all the mental anticipation and energy of going on a 5-day trip. Like it’s a sort of reward for going to the convention, like the convention is a chore that needs to be completed.

It’s not. I’m looking forward to reuniting with friends I made at last year’s convention, and at Bouchercon last fall. I’m looking forward to the experience of seeing a new place, and of being away from home and all the responsibilities here. I get a break from work and from all the distractions of home (hours of news 😮 ). I get to enjoy early summer temps (70s!) instead of the forecast snow/rain mix, although I will miss out on the 40s they’re predicting for the end of the week.

I’m not looking forward to dragging my books with me, but it’s better than not having any because the bookstore, for some reason only they can rationalize, chose not to order my books to stock for LCC despite the fact I filled out their form to have them carry my book. Twice.

Maybe it’s the weather. I am so DONE with winter! We got 2 inches the other day, and they’re predicting 2 to 6 more inches today. The weather wonks have put this season into the top 10 snowiest for MN. Oh boy.

On the bright side, the equinox is in a couple weeks, meaning spring is almost here! Yay! We’ll only have to deal with the snow (and the subsequent muddy yard and driveway) for another month or so. Better than getting all this snow in December and having to put up with it for three more months.

Motivation to work on book 2 is sketchy at this point. Maybe because I need to really work through the “what-ifs” before I do any more revision, and my brain is busy churning through all the fun I plan to have at LCC. Or it’s busy thinking about other projects I really want to get back to. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I take advantage of the time I have now to shift some focus to book 2, because darn it, I want to hand it over to my agent and get back to my police procedural.

Then again, I’m also thinking to save the work for all the time I’ll be spending in the airport, on the plane, in my hotel room in the mornings before all the activities fire up. I mean, what better time to work through “what ifs” than spending 2-3 hrs at 40,000 feet?

Doesn’t mean I can’t do it now, too.

So, creative brain, get your shit together and focus.

Don’t forget to Spring Ahead this weekend for Daylight Savings Time!


Whoops! #amediting #amrevising

So, not only does my memory seem more faulty these days, I find myself completely pre-occupied by my writing projects. I’m working through the “before the overhaul” and the “after the overhaul” plots for my police procedural, and I just heard from my agent that there’s still a pacing problem with Book 2.

Guess what else is taking up precious brain bandwidth?

Not to mention all that routine stuff, like “I really need to clean this weekend” and “I really need to reorganize my working area” and “I wonder if the professor will accept my submissions for my exam for credit because I really don’t want to pay $1400 for the class.”

Needless to say, the realization that yes, it IS Saturday, and I’m supposed to post on my blog this morning, just hit me.

And my Muse is Down Under enjoying sun and surf and Summer, so I can’t rope him into writing a post.

So, here’s my “I forgot I had to post” post. Words of wisdom from my writing teacher, Christine DeSmet, one of the Blackbird Writers (you can find them on FB):

Post #4 of 5, techniques for novelists

Two examples of how color lifts a manuscript

…Using color consciously can help a manuscript become a standout for agents, editors, readers.

…Color—used as a device—creates emotional reactions in readers and characters. Color’s symbolism helps with plotting.

…Example 1: Author Kent Haruf

…In an online course I taught, I asked about color in one exercise. Kent Haruf’s great novel, PLAINSONG, begins with a teenage girl in a rough situation. She and her mother are alone, poor, the abusive mother shows disdain for her pregnant teenage daughter retching over the toilet bowl before going to school. The scene is sad, dark (and short). It’s mostly dialogue (with several dialogue techniques illustrated, by the way). When we go to the next scene, the girl dresses for school in nothing special, but she has a shiny red purse. When I asked adult writers what the red purse signified, the answers split evenly between women and men. Women felt the red purse meant the girl was grabbing for a degree of confidence and hope. The men felt the red purse signified a tart, a loose woman.

…No matter the interpretation, readers noticed the red purse. The novel, by the way, turns into a lovely story about community and “unlikely family” with humor. (If you liked A MAN CALLED OVE, you may enjoy PLAINSONG.)

…Haruf used the “red purse” as a signal in his plot. This story is set in a plain, small town—imagine gray and brown tones. The red purse has its own plot: it appears three significant times in the story. This helps the author signal the story’s three acts and character’s changes or growth. Readers may also care about the red purse, too, because the girl loves it. If something happens to the red purse, our emotions may be tugged.

…The red purse is like a red cardinal appearing amid a snowy white landscape, flagging our attention.

…Example 2: Author Jo Nesbo

…Author Jo Nesbo used white snow and contrasting color to great advantage in his chilling murder suspense, THE SNOWMAN, set in Norway. Amid the bleak, black winter shadows the killer always leaves behind a white snowman at the murder location. Each snowman wears a brightly colored scarf. The purpose? The sleuth (and agent/editor/reader) has to read to find out. The color amid chilly white is a plot tool and makes this a memorable novel.

…What color enhances (or could enhance) your manuscript’s characterization and plot?

Anyway, now that the Vikings are out of the running for the rest of the playoffs (raise your hand if you’re surprised. What? Anyone? Yeah, me neither. There’s always next year), I can use that time to catch up on those annoying chores, like cleaning. Ugh.

Maybe when my Muse gets back, he’ll have some deep insight to share with me ….

Happy Writing!


NaNoWriMo week 2 recap #nano2022

Well, in the span of one day, we went from September/October temps to December temps (68 F to 35 F). So, I equate this to the Old Man of Winter slapping us across the face. Yeesh. Luckily we haven’t had any winter storm stuff yet, unlike North Dakota, which got a FOOT or more of snow in the past day or two.

Yep, you guys can have it at this point in the season. I’m not ready for snow. Rain, yes. We did get a little rain, but not nearly enough to make a dent in the drought.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be recapping my progress in NaNo this past week. In a word, meh. For the actual writing on the story, that is. In lieu of adding words to the story, I’ve been finding myself writing a “stream of consciousness” to talk through the story and what to write. Which doesn’t add anything to the story itself, but I did work out a problem, and I’m still trying to work out another part of the story that I haven’t really figured out yet.

That’s what I get for jumping into NaNo without spending a few weeks ahead of time to really look at the story and where I want to take it. What I like to do before NaNo is take the month before and work out the plot. I don’t really outline as much as I use a timeline, which I suppose is a sort of outline.

The point though, that I keep reminding myself, is any words written, whether for the story or to work through the story, are more words than were written before. Keep moving forward. And actually, I think I need to do the “stream of consciousness” writing–it’s been a while since I worked on this project, and it’s a good way for me to reconnect and remind myself about the story, and most importantly, finish working through the plot.

So yes, I’m keeping up, but the actual writing on the story isn’t progressing. I do count brainstorming and plotting as a win, though. If I can work out how the story moves to the end, it’ll be that much easier to write it. I always feel better when I know the whole story and just need to put it on paper.

Is anyone else working on NaNo? How is it going for you? Managing to hit the daily quota? Even if you aren’t, just remember that regardless of how far you get on the story, at least you are writing. Bonus points if you are writing every single day!

Well, I’ve got to get back to it. Have a great weekend and keep writing!

Throwback Kitten – Tibbers cozy napping


Countdown to NaNo 2022! #NaNo2022 #amwriting

The countdown has begun for the annual writers’ challenge of cranking out 50k words in 30 days–yippee! Well, okay, maybe not “yippee”, more like … well, it’s time to reestablish my “write every day” habit.

Right now I’m working on another revision pass through Book 2, which is going pretty well so far. Will I finish in time for NaNo? I’m halfway through Book 2, and I’d like to get through it before NaNo starts, a good plan, all except for the part about letting it sit for another couple weeks before a final run-through and sending it off to my agent.

Then there’s the other question: what to work on? I have two projects that are candidates: my rural MN mystery, which I’m halfway through and need to finish, or Book 3, which doesn’t have a solid plot yet, but a good start (on a plot, that is, thanks to my Writing Sisters). It’d be nice to get the rural MN mystery drafted; it’s a reboot of a draft I wrote many years ago that lacked an actual major crime. Come to think of it, it’s probably more romantic suspense than straight-up mystery. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this reboot has dual timelines and a 50-yr-old unsolved murder.

Book 3 has my intrepid characters from my published book and Book 2. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, so on one hand, I’d spend more time with them. On the other, it’s like that couple you’re really good friends with, and you hang out with, but it’s nice to take a break from them.

Then again, if I wanted to write something completely different, there’s always that urban fantasy my Muse keeps dangling in front of me.

Okay, I have no shortage of projects, just a shortage of focus and an abundance of opportunities to procrastinate. It’s time to take down the garden fence; this weekend is supposed to be really nice and really mild (like, in the 60s and sunny mild), and I got all the fabric mulch and soaker hoses out already. And there’s always my least-favorite chore: cleaning. Which I have been neglecting (PSA: if you plan on visiting, y’all probably should let me know, like, weeks in advance).

Anyway, I think the rural MN mystery will win out. If I can get that finished, then I can start revising it. After my police procedural. And maybe before I start Book 3.

Do you have numerous projects going at once? How do you choose what to work on at any particular time?

In any case, if you’re one of those people who loves Halloween, have a great holiday weekend!

Keep on writing!

Image by Lory from Pixabay