Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Creative energies–welcome back! #amwriting #amrevising

Author doubts never go away. I think that’s been why I’ve been struggling with–what do they call it? Second book blues? The book two curse? Fear of book two not being as good as book one?

After seven first drafts, I think I have it figured out. Oh, and taking a novel-writing class helps, too. Especially my latest assignment: a set-piece scene. A set-piece scene is one that sets the tone, and includes conflict, emotion, and the senses. It’s a memorable scene that might be the midpoint crisis, or the climax, or at any point in the book.

The class example of a set-piece scene was the circus scene from Water for Elephants, where all hell breaks loose, the animals start stampeding, and the ringmaster gets … well, no spoilers.

I wanted to get something to my writing teacher before she left on vacation, so I tried to figure out what scene in my WIP would be considered a set-piece scene, or rather, what scene could I write that could be considered a set-piece scene.

I took a walk to ponder the possibilities, and came up with something I thought would work. It’s near the midpoint of the story, and puts my main character in danger.

Here’s the weird part: I drafted the scene, looked at it the next morning and tweaked it a bit, then submitted it. The verdict? Yes, it was a set-piece scene, and it was pretty good, too. I can feel the creative energy coming back.

“Because you listened to me, love.” My Muse, who has been keeping one of the recliners in a corner of my writing office warm, sets his crossword puzzle aside. Apparently his pub crawl buddies are all busy.

“I’m writing, and you’re doing crosswords? Seriously?”

He taps a temple with his pen. “Keeps the mind sharp.”

“Oh? American or Australian crosswords?”

“British. I like a challenge.”

Which is probably why he hasn’t given up on me yet.

He levers himself out of the chair and crosses my office, shoving the cuffs of his long-sleeved t-shirt to his elbows. The royal blue of the t-shirt almost coordinates with his purple Vikings helmet-covered lounge pants. I feel like I should microwave some popcorn and put in a movie, ala slumber party.

“I won’t give up on you, love. And after you went through the feedback from your Writing Sisters again, you’ve been much more receptive to my suggestions. You’re starting the revisions now, right?” He shakes a finger at me to emphasize his point. “Don’t get hung up on the revisions. You know better. Revise what you need to and keep going.”

“My next homework is an outline. I want to have that done by the time my teacher is back from vacation. And I have another bookstore signing tomorrow.”

He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “Don’t worry about the outline. That’s a piece of cake. You’re getting your momentum back.” He squeezes, and plants a kiss on my forehead. “Keep it up, love. You’re doing good.”

I feel better about the story. That set-piece scene kicked off some other ideas that for some reason hadn’t been apparent to me before. And the changes will give a stronger motive to one of the characters; it’ll make his actions much more believable.

This is the part about writing I really like, the creative energy that makes me want to find a nice quiet place and do nothing but write without worrying about anything else.

Enjoy one of the last weekends of summer!

zoey chair mine
What? You got up, so it’s mine now.
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About a Book, Writing, and a Dragon

Hi! I’m back! Hope you all had a fun holiday weekend, or at least got some reading and writing done.

Oh, you are wondering about the dragon, aren’t you? I finally saw the third How to Train Your Dragon movie. If you haven’t seen any of the movies, you should. The third one was as good as the others–better, because what’s better than one Night Fury? A Night Fury and a Light Fury! Anyway, my daughter–who is supposed to be saving her money for college but somehow missed the memo–brought me my very own Night Fury.

It even lights up and roars. You’ll have to watch the third movie to really get that.

Another fun thing that happened this week is the latest issue of InD’tale Magazine came out. It’s a magazine about books for writers and readers, focusing on books published by small presses. If you want to go directly to the fun part, click here. If you want to check out the whole magazine, you can find it here. My review is on page 109.

I suppose I should post something about writing, since this is some sort of a writing blog, right? I’m progressing on Book 2, slowly but surely. This week (since I’m, like, two weeks behind on reading blog posts) I read a post on Janice Hardy’s blog (BTW, if you don’t follow Janice Hardy, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of writing tips) about purple prose. I also started listening to the audiobook version of Where the Crawdads Sing. If you have read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The descriptions in the book are rich. She describes the marsh, the swamp, the sand, the weather. Reading it as a writer, I wonder how someone comes up with prose like that. But also as a writer, after reading a post on purple prose, I have to wonder where to draw the line. So, here’s a screenshot of the prologue of the novel courtesy of Amazon’s look inside feature.

Prologue of Where the Crawdads Sing

So, is this purple prose or not? The descriptions build the atmosphere of the story, and they are wonderfully fluid. I think genre has a part in determining where the line is drawn. Literary books have more “flowery” description, I think, and the readers accept it. A murder mystery, on the other hand (yes, I know the book is a murder mystery, but it’s more literary than a police procedural or crime novel. I don’t think Catherine Coulter would get away with descriptions like this in her FBI books (in fact, one reason I don’t read her books is the stark lack of “atmosphere”, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary)).

So, how does a writer determine whether s/he is crossing that line between good description and overdone description? That is one of the values of critique partner(s) and/or a writing group. They should be able to tell you if you’re overdoing it, or if you aren’t doing enough. The key is to give the reader enough so they can feel like they are in the setting. If they are in a funeral home, the smell of flowers would be something a character would notice. If it’s winter, the reader should be able to feel the biting wind. And if the setting is Georgia in August, the character would probably be swimming in sweat, barely able to breathe air so humid it could put out a fire all by itself.

So, there’s my contribution to writing wisdom for the week 😀

So, have a great week. Do some writing. Do some reading. Do some weeding–wait, that’s my to-do list. Enjoy your weekend!

Must be nice to be a cat!


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Writerly inspirations #amwriting

1

So I ran across this quote through a fellow writer on Facebook. I read it and thought “YES! SO MUCH THIS!”

Um. Yeah. Then i got back to my writing office and found this:
indianna-jones-hat-whipAnyone else think my Muse didn’t find the quote’s image of a muse as humorous as I did?

I haven’t seen the fedora and bullwhip for a while, and I didn’t expect to see them; I’ve been writing–working on my homework for my writing class. Now that my writing teacher has finished her week-long writing retreat, I’m planning to turn in my next assignment in a few days. The first 20 pages of my book.

Hey, it’s incentive. *eyes the fedora and bullwhip*

“A-hem.”

Um, he’s behind me, isn’t he. Yeah, not a question.

“I hope you aren’t taking Ms. Kingsolver’s advice literally, love.”

Gulp. I turn to find my Muse standing inside my personal space. Rather, looming. He’s six-foot-two to my five-foot four. I look up, but slowly. I mean, he’s so close I may as well take advantage, right? I don’t get this kind of view of broad chest and lean muscle every day. Even if it is covered with a royal blue t-shirt that fits him quite well. And is that coconut scent from sunscreen? I always think of the beach when I smell that. The beach and Banana Boat sunscreen. Do they even make that anymore?

“Julie.”

Oh, yeah. I finish getting my eyeful and reach his face. “You are in my personal space,” I say as an excuse, though I’m pretty sure he sees right through that.

“Yes, I am. And do you remember why I’m in your personal space?”

I show him my notebook, complete with line-outs, scribble-outs, and arrows. “I’m doing my homework. See.” I indicate the fedora and whip. “I don’t know why you brought those. I’m working.”

He shrugs. “I got inspired by your writing teacher.”

What? Oh, the quote on Facebook. “Aren’t you supposed to meet Mr. E for a pub crawl?” Not that I think he’ll be distracted by the idea, but it’s worth a shot.

His strong hands land on my shoulders and he turns me around, adding a tiny shove toward my computer. “No. I’m here until you get your homework done.”

Okay. I can work with that. I mean, he is my Muse after all. Heck, he’s been my Muse since my senior year in high school. And no, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

“Focus, love.” He bends close, until I feel his breath on my ear. “And remember, your writing teacher approves this message.”

You had to be there. Seriously.

Welcome to Summer! (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, then it’s winter) And now we get to watch the days get shorter (I know, still 24 hrs, but a few less minutes of daylight every day from now until the winter solstice. Boo.)

And here’s another Barbara Kingsolver quote for inspiration:

3

Happy Writing!

Zoey4


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Getting back into it #amwriting

writing-933262_1280

I swat at the cloud of gnats swarming my head and dart through the back door of my writing office. With the door safely closed and most of the bugs left outside, I pull off my head-net. Best. Investment. Ever. Although, one can tolerate a cloud of gnats around one’s head–even one safely ensconsed in mosquito netting–only so long.

“Seriously, love?” My Muse is leaning on my writing desk, arms crossed. Until he swats at a rogue gnat. A teeny wisp of smoke fades.

“Dude, did you just fry that gnat?”

Another teeny wisp of smoke drifts toward the floor. “Would you rather I corral them and coax them back outside?”

“Hell, no. Why don’t you nuke all the ones out in the garden so I don’t have to wear this head-net and spray down with bug repellent.”

“Not my job.” He crosses his legs at the ankles. Which is when I notice he’s wearing deck shoes, no socks, tan cargo shorts, and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt. Except the shirt is tye-dyed rather than the usual black. “Besides, they’ll be gone in a week or so. Now that you’re done playing in the dirt …”

“Playing? Excuse me, but I was trying to weed. You know, before I couldn’t stand listening to bugs in my ears and flying around my eyes.” I peel off my long-sleeved button-down shirt. Ugh. Eighty degrees outside and I have to wear long pants and long sleeves just to weed without turning into a snack bar. A stray buzz by my ear sounds like a mini-buzzsaw. I slap at my head. Damn fricking bugs. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of weeding done. “Whatever it is, it’s going to have to wait until after I shower.”

A slow, crooked grin stretches across his face. An eyebrow arches.

“What? What’s funny?”

“Best you don’t know, love.”

Ahem. O-kay. “Hey, I don’t need any shit from you. I’m writing. I even have the first chapter done. I knew that class was a good idea.”

“Yes, you are, and yes, it was. And I’m not going to let you slack off because your writing teacher is conducting a week-long writing retreat this week. She wants to see the next chapter.”

“And I want to write it. But shower first.” The sharp pine-ish smell of bug spray just reminds me of bugs. Bloodsucking bugs.

“I’ll be waiting.” He crosses the office and settles into one of the recliners in the corner before he reaches to the mini-fridge and pulls out a craft beer. “Hurry up. I have some ideas for the next few chapters.”

“Good. So do I.”

I have to say, I am sooo glad I took this class. The units and exercises are set up to walk through the process of building a novel. So far, in the unit I’m on, my assignments included a logline and the infamous Central Question, a review of the book as a bestseller, as well as my main character’s best personality trait and her Fatal Flaw.

By writing the review, specifically looking at the character, plot, and transformational arc, I discovered a few things, one in particular that “clicked” as part of Sierra’s arc. By really thinking about her fatal flaw and why she has it, I hit another revelation that will help me with the story.

My next assignment is the first 20 pages. I have the first nine done as part of an earlier assignment, and I feel good about keeping things going. Being accountable is a big part of this, but also the coaching. My mentor is a great coach; she always manages to say something or make a suggestion that turns on the lightbulb and makes me want to dig in and move forward. I even took a day off next week to give myself some additional time to write. And work on promo stuff.

Enjoy your weekend, and to all the fathers out there, whether you have your own kids or you fill that place in someone’s life: Happy Father’s Day!

zoey chair 3


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A Muse break

“This one?”

“Is it the one at Once Upon a Crime? The one Meg took?”

“You know, you could come over here and look, love.”

“I’m doing my homework.” My writer, sitting across the office in one of the recliners, glances up from her notebook. “I don’t care. Just pick one. I’m trying to get this done, which is the whole point of you doing my blog post, remember?”

Bloody hell. Fine. “Then don’t complain if it’s the wrong one.” There. “You know, you should have had more books on the table.”

OUAC 2

Author signing at Once Upon a Crime bookstore

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

All in all, she said the event went well, even if she didn’t know beforehand the bookstore sells the books on a consignment basis instead of ordering them ahead of time. I tried to tell her, but she didn’t listen. Luckily she had a bunch of books in her car. She came home with no books, and reveled in her fortune for the rest of the day. Not much writing got done despite my efforts.

“What are you writing?”

“If you want to know, you could write the post yourself, love.”

She shakes her head and puts her headphones on.

As frustrating as it’s been to get her settled enough to write again, she’s putting in some nice effort. I keep telling her she has to focus more. If things were up to me, she would go away to a quiet cabin somewhere for a week, where I could really work on her. There is a place I put on her radar. Will she take my suggestion? Who the hell knows.

Of course, when I look up to check on her, she’s watching me instead of writing. Cute, but not productive. “Focus, love.”

She slides one headphone off. “What?”

“You know exactly what. Get your homework done.”

She sticks out her tongue before sliding the headphone back into place. At least she’s writing. When she declared she was going to take an online writing class, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea. I mean, she’s got a book to write, and a class would distract her.

No worries. Julie has been far more focused because, she says, the class is helping her write the infamous Book 2. And it’s with her writing teacher.

Thank the gods. I was considering pushing her into that urban fantasy again. And no, that has nothing to do with getting a cameo. We Muses work our magic away from the spotlight.

But it would be kinda fun to see what she comes up with.

“Don’t forget to put a picture of Zoey at the end.”

“I’ve got it, love. Finish your homework.” Which might be a challenge over the next months since her kids are home from college for the summer. Maybe I can get her to repurpose her son’s room sooner rather than later. And her book promo stuff. I miss the days when all my writer had to do was write.

zoey couch2

“Did you put in a picture of Zoey?”

Sigh. “Yes, love. Get back to work.”


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Book launch party = success!

APL event 4.

Last weekend I held a book launch party at our local public library, the first of this type of event I have ever done.

Yikes. I wasn’t sure what to do or expect. Thankfully a bunch of my writer friends *waves* have done this sort of thing before and posted about their experiences. The impression I got from other writers is that everyone kinda does their own thing.

How do you plan this sort of thing when you’ve never done it before?

You don’t. I knew I wanted to read the first chapter of the book. Other than that, it was “make it up as I go”.

It was a good turnout, even if half of the people there were relatives (some of whom came from the Twin Cities, no less). Having worked at the library, I recognized most of the locals. The library is a small-town library, with enough room for maybe thirty chairs comfortably, and almost all the chairs were filled.

APL event 3_cr

I drafted my daughter to take pictures for me, but didn’t know what to tell her to take pictures of. She did miss the airplane-shaped cookies the library director made for the event. Those were cool, and everyone liked them. The library director had a new grandbaby arrive the night before the event, so she missed out (but she got to see her first boy grandbaby!)

After introductions, I read the first chapter of my book, which is short enough to read and ends with a cliffhanger.

APL event 1

Then questions. My daughter (actually, my hubs fed her lines) asked a bunch when no one else did, so it was a nice Q&A session. Afterwards, people mingled and bought books. There were a few people I haven’t seen for a while there, so it was nice to catch up a little with them.

The best part was hearing how much people enjoyed the book. Few of the attendees had read the book, but one patron, who is a voracious–and discerning–mystery reader, loved it. She is someone who won’t hesitate to tell you if she didn’t finish a book or doesn’t like an author’s writing. She is great word-of-mouth advertising!

The local newspaper guy was there, so I also got my picture in the paper.

paper photo_crAll in all, it was a great event. We invited family over to our house afterward to visit for a bit (and bribed them with pizza 😀 ).

Our local library and the library league are great at sponsoring  events like this, and bringing in authors. We have had Marc Brown (Arthur children’s books) and the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day), as well as many others, do presentations. Check in with your local library league to do events at the library. I mean, where else do booklovers go if there isn’t a bookstore handy?

This weekend I’m heading to a local indie bookstore with a reputation for supporting local mystery authors for a signing event with a fellow member of our Sisters in Crime chapter. It’ll be another first for me, but I’m looking forward to picking my fellow author’s brain a bit on setting up signings at other bookstores, which he’s been busy with since his second book came out early this year. I have to set up more author events, and it’ll be nice to get some tips.

And SPRING! The trees are getting green, the grass is super-green, and I saw tulips blooming yesterday. The local greenhouse has flowers out now. There’s nothing like those bursts of color after a long, gray, and dreary week. I stopped in to pick up seed potatoes and onion sets, because last year I didn’t get there early enough and all the potatoes and onions were gone. I’ll go back to get seeds and plants in a few weeks once hubs gets the garden tilled.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

zoey_cr


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Writer = yes, marketer = not so much

Hope everyone had a good Easter/Passover/Spring or whatever you celebrated (or didn’t). The weekend was gorgeous here, all sunny and spring-like. Family, food, and got to catch up a bit with the in-laws.

I think Winter is still trying to steal the spotlight, though. Forecast for today: wintry mix. C’mon, already. Give it up. Go on vacation until Turkey Day.

Everything is getting nice and green. The trees are starting to put their leaves on. I can’t wait until they start flowering. There’s nothing quite like driving through town with trees flowering. Roll down the window and smell the beauty!

Now that Easter is over, I get to put more time into marketing *cringe*. I know it’s a necessary part of the process, but now that I’m getting back into the writing groove, it’s taking time away from what I want–need–to do. Write.

One step at a time. I have to break things down into small bites, or I get too overwhelmed. This week I did an interview with a local podcaster who talks to Minnesota authors. That was fun, and we did it at the library in the city where I work (I  think I found a great new place to focus 🙂 ). She said she would let me know when the podcast will “air”, but not until later in May or June.

Today is Book Launch Party day! The local library director has been super in organizing this (yes, this is the library I substitute at) with ad announcements in the local paper, and even put the announcement on the light sign outside the city offices on the main drag into town:

light sign 1_crMy name in lights!

It’s my first book launch party, and the library director has never held one; even though the library has hosted a number of authors, there hasn’t been a launch party. When I checked into how to do a launch party, everyone does things a little differently. One of my Writing Sisters had some great ideas that will be fun.

A number of my family members plan to be there, and some local friends. I’ll draft my daughter to take pics. So what does one do at a launch party? I figure the usual author stuff: introduction, how long it took to write the book, where the idea came from–the questions I’ve been asked most often so far. Read a chapter, and hold a drawing. I’m testing the idea of having a prize that might translate to online giveaway drawings. I’ve got these:

drawing cups kona If you have read the book, kona coffee is in there. I haven’t done any online drawings yet, but I’m thinking a mug and coffee might be a good prize. What do you think? I also have other items to give away for promo stuff online, but I haven’t had a chance to look into doing that. It’s on my list. I can always do something with my newsletter–which I haven’t kicked off yet, either. Sigh.

When I found out today is Independent Bookstore Day–man, I could have set up something today at a bookstore. The Midwest Indie Bookstore organization is running a passport sort of thing to encourage people to visit independent bookstores over the summer, so they have a nice, convenient list of indies in MN, WI, etc; I can approach these stores in the future.  Next week I’m doing an author signing with another mystery writer at a local indie. He’s visited a number of bookstores, so I’ll get some info from him.

I’ll let you know how things go today. I’m not keen on being the center of attention. I know I need to write more books to keep the momentum, and I’m struggling with putting that into the mix of full-time job and part-time book promoter. I’m still behind reading blogs, so I’m sorry about that. I’m trying to catch up 🙂

Enjoy your weekend! May your spring flowers start blooming!

zoey couch1