Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Return of the Muse

My blog-writing, fantasy novelist buddy Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror has invited her visitors to write a short story about our muses.

Heh.

I remember the last time we had a muse read-around. Man, what a blast!

I’ve finally passed 50k for NaNoWriMo–yippee! Of course, the story isn’t done yet. I’ll take a couple weeks to finish, or at least get mostly finished with it before I return to Book 2.

My Muse has been writing my posts during NaNo. Mostly. Thing is, when I hit 50k, he called Mr. E and the two of them took off on a pub crawl Down Under, because apparently bars around here are substandard.

Image by mlproject from Pixabay

A crisp breeze gusts through my writing office, sending shivers through me. The back door clicks shut. A scent of fried food, stale beer, and sweat permeates the air. My Muse toes off his deck shoes and hangs up a red windbreaker on the coat tree. He’s wearing a new pair of jeans, judging by the lack of worn seams, and a rugby jersey. Not as nice as his burgundy henley, but it does leave his forearms bare.

“That was a short crawl. Thought you and E would make a long weekend of it.”

He leans a hip on my desk, and crosses his arms on his broad chest. “He said he had to get back to Mae.”

“And you can’t find another muse to hang with? Diana has a whole convention over at her place.”

He grimaces. “The Merc and I have an understanding.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. He understands I don’t follow his orders or requests, or hell, directions to the nearest Seven-11, and I understand a lack of personal hygiene and the stench of battle are none of my business.”

“O-kay. I sense a bit of animosity there.”

He pulls up a chair and straddles it, bringing his face even with mine. Whoa. His eyes are bluer than I remember. Was that divot in his chin always so enticing? And dimples. I haven’t noticed his dimples for a month. Is it getting warm in here?

A finger-snap yanks my wandering imagination back. “Are you paying attention, love?”

Um, sure. “Would you mind repeating that last part?”

“I said, I tried to warn the Bossy Muse about that guy, but she insisted her writer needed a change of scenery.”

“Scenery?” I ask. “Seriously? I mean, I get the whole Conan the Barbarian thing for the fantasy genre, but even Schwartzenegger would be a better Conan than that brute. At least his nose wouldn’t be crooked.”

My Muse arches a brow. “Schwartzenegger? Why him?”

“I don’t know. He did the movie.”

He shakes his head. “Anyway. You’ve had a couple days off.”

“Hey, one day for enjoying crossing the finish line, and one day to deal with my migraine.”

“I’ll give you the migraine day, but you need to finish the story so you can get back to Book 2.”

I lean back in my chair. “I know. That’s the plan. I figure I’ll give myself until Christmas on this project, then hit Book 2 after Christmas, since we won’t be going anywhere for the holidays anyway. I’m sure there will be another COVID-19 surge by then.”

“Good. Get back to work, love.”

Thanks to Diana for the opportunity to join another round of muse posts!

Keep on writing!

Hey, you! Why aren’t you writing?


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NaNoWriMo Week 1 recap #nanowrimo #amwriting

Hey! *waves* Talk about a crazy week! Fall has returned to the “great white North” with record-setting temps in the 70s this week. Yep, you read that right. The first week of November in MN has temps in the 70s! Makes it almost worth the 6 1/2 inches of snow we got two weeks ago worth it.

Almost.

And since it’s been so nice, it would be a sin to not take advantage of it, right? Finished cleaning up the garden and went for a run outside. It felt glorious (except for all the dust from the gravel road). We have a couple more days before seasonal temps return (to the tune of around 40-50 degrees F).

Oh, and look who we found hanging out in our grove this week: (NOT a picture of our actual visitor because I take lousy pictures and I do not have a telephoto lens (because I take lousy pictures 🙂 )):

I saw a great horned owl in our grove years ago when we first bought the place, but haven’t seen one since, though I think I might have heard it a few times. This week, hubs got out the binoculars, pointed to some place in the grove, and said “Look.” Yeah. Unless you know ex-act-ly where to look with binoculars, good luck seeing whatever the hell it is the other person is pointing at.

He took me down the driveway (through the grove) so I had a different angle. Sure enough, it was a great horned owl. So cool! That’s one of the best things about our little 8-acre island in the middle of vast farm fields: we get to see all kinds of wildlife. There’s a resident red-tailed hawk and another hawk I’m not sure of, maybe broad-winged or Cooper’s. A pair of wood ducks hangs out every spring on their way to wherever they nest. Saw a possum cross the yard last week, and I’m pretty sure a woodchuck lives in the ruins of the old timber-frame farm house. I’m not going to mention the rabbits. So many rabbits. Ugh.

And back to NaNo, Week 1. I’ve managed to keep up this week. Not my usual 2k words a day, but I’m making the 1667 word quota, with about a hundred words to spare. It was touch and go the first couple days, though.

With the “oh my gawd I cannot deal with election Tuesday” this week, I had a video chat with my Writing Sisters, two of whom are joining me in this crazy NaNo adventure.

And one of them, who is attempting NaNo for the first time, expressed her frustration. “Why did I ever think this was a good idea? I blame you, Julie.”

In some secret, dark part of me, I rubbed my hands together and laughed maniacally. Mwahahahahaha!

In the kinder, brighter part of me, I empathized. NaNo can be pretty intimidating.

She asked how I do it.

This is what I told her:

  • The internet is a time-sucking distraction, even when it comes to research. I can pop to the internet to look something up, such as popular boys names in the 1950s, and pretty soon I’ve lost a half-hour of writing time. This year I’m getting serious with my lack of discipline. I turn the internet off (well, not off, hubs would not appreciate that). I started using a program called Freedom.to that will block me from accessing the internet for a period of time. I even splurged for a lifetime membership (which is half-price this month and actually reasonable).
  • What about when I have to look something up if I can’t go to the internet? I make an inline note within brackets to remind me, then when I revise, I’ll look it up.
  • Don’t go back to revise something you wrote earlier. Chuck that inner editor into a cage, close the door, and put the key into the back of the desk drawer. If I need to revise something or come back to it, I make inline notes again, sometimes like: gawd, this sounds stupid fix it later. 😀
  • What about keeping track of details? I have a character “bible” in OneNote, which also includes setting details (I use Karen Wiesner’s worksheets from her First Draft in 30 days book). I also use Scrivener, which lets you keep notes for scenes and stuff. I can keep track of what day it is or whose POV it is that way.
  • Music or no music? I actually like to listen to instrumental music along the lines of The Piano Guys, George Winston, David Garrett, the Narada artists, etc. Sometimes I’ll go full nature with thunderstorm or ocean wave soundtracks. It seems to help me corral creative energies.

I did run into a problem in the beginning, though. I like to write out a timeline or series of events for a story (some might call it an outline, but that word seems too rigid to me), then I’ll write the story following the timeline. It’s how I’ve written every other book, and it works, or has worked for me.

Until now.

I wrote out the timeline for this book over a year ago. I know what happens in the book, but I’m not sure about the transitions. I found myself plodding along from point A to point B at such a slow pace that my usual 2-hr writing session only netted me maybe 500 words.

I’ll never hit 50k in 30 days at that pace.

So I decided to try the method one of my other writing sisters uses. She writes in scenes, and then weaves them together later. It works for her.

Guess what? It’s working for me with this book (hey, after 4 unfinished first drafts, something’s gotta work, right?). I’m getting through the scenes and hitting my word counts. Yay!

We have a couple more days of unseasonably-warm weather, so I’ll be trying to enjoy it while still getting my daily word quota.

Keep on writing!


Summer reruns #1

Yep. It’s the part about summer when you are flipping through channels at night after the mosquitoes chase you inside and the air conditioner is humming and it’s really too late (or too close to bedtime) to dig into much writing. So I figured if TV shows can do it, so can I 😀

This post originally appeared in August of 2014 (Oh. My. Gawd. I didn’t realize I’ve been blogging that long!) Enjoy this blast from the past!

Orignally appeared August 17, 2014:

It’s one of the last weekends of summer, and school starts in a couple weeks. Where did the summer go? Granted, summer really didn’t get going here in MN until late June after we had torrential downpours that caused mudslides, closed many roads, and wiped out my garden TWICE. And it’s been a nice, cool summer. Love it! The temps, that is, not the fact my garden is a month behind. Still waiting for my tomatoes to hurry up and get ripe!

My vice, though, is lazy weekends. There are many summer weekends that include trips to various family gatherings including graduations, weddings, and birthdays. On the weekends we get to stay home, I have a tendency to kick back in an easy chair, whip out my computer, and write. Besides, the cleaning will be there tomorrow, right?

Part of me feels guilty for neglecting regular household chores, but I do have two teens in the house, and they are responsible for dishes, their own laundry, and cleaning bathrooms (Yippee!). Part of that guilt keeps my muse hanging in the wings, reluctant to sit down next to me for an hour or two of writing. The procrastinator in me clamps a hand over the guilt’s mouth and threatens it with bodily harm if it screams.

My inspirations during the summer include gorgeous sunsets and those quiet mornings when the mist hangs in the air. It’s humid and a little cool, but the fog curtains the trees and blankets sound. There’s a sense of awe that brings to mind a timelessness that leads my writer’s mind toward scenes that involve characters emerging from the fog on horseback or standing within a grove, that muted quiet swelling to fill their ears and hush their words. The fiery pink sunsets remind me to stop and watch, to impress in my mind the splendor of the vibrant colors so I can recall them later.

What inspires you during the summer? Is it gardens of flowers? A sole wildflower in the shadows of trees? The sounds of crickets or frogs at night? The smell of freshly-cut grass or hay? The buzz of cicadas? The sweat on a glass of homemade lemonade or the slow drip of ice cream down a cone? Take ten minutes and describe what you sense in the summer at one of your favorite places. It doesn’t have to be a scene, just pick a place on the beach or at a fair or on a walking trail and describe the sound of the waves or the smell of cotton candy and caramel corn.

Gotta go. My muse is waiting and his coffee mug is empty!


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Settling down #amwriting #amrevising

writing in a journal on the lawn
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

A lot of writers have been posting about how the pandemic and the quarantine have disrupted their writing. Despite spending so much time at home, they are having a tough time focusing. Heck, a lot of people have trouble sleeping. COVID dreams, anyone?

Now with the turmoil of the past couple weeks added on top of all that, settling down to write seems to be a losing battle. All of the things going on right now foster anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration. Then there’s the whole being cooped up 24-7 with people you love but honestly need a break from sometimes–erm, on a regular basis. 😀

All these things disrupt the flow of creativity, at least for me. Considering it’s been what, three months since the pandemic kicked off the quarantine, there’s been time to try different things to settle that creative energy enough to use.

My Writing Sisters chat every week, and this week we shared some of the things we’re doing to help us attain the calm we need to write. Maybe you’ve figured out what works for you by now. If not, here are some of the things we are doing:

  • Turn off the news: Um, yeah. That’s what’s disrupting our energy to begin with. Hopefully you don’t live with someone who is a news junkie. Check in occasionally to stay informed (provided, of course, your source is non-biased and well-balanced, and no, I won’t go there), but anything more than an hour or so is probably too much.
  • Get outside: There is something grounding about being in Nature. Sure, we need to be mindful of where we go and physical distancing, but a walk in the woods or a park has a calming effect. Green trees, bird song, whispering leaves, maybe a laughing brook, flowers. Pay attention to it all. It’s like mindful breathing: it gives you something to focus on instead of the mental clutter encouraged by all the news lately. The weather this time of year is great (if you discount temps above 90 F and humidity above 80%). The southern hemisphere is heading into winter, but hopefully your weather isn’t like MN’s winter 🙂
  • Exercise: Walks or runs help work off anxious energy. Yoga and other activities like tai chi are both a physical workout and a meditation. Anything to bleed off that unsettled energy helps.
  • Write longhand: Writing longhand is a great way to pull a writing brain out of the mire. Even if it’s just journaling or stream-of-consciousness writing, it lures creative energy out, giving it a ball or a piece of chalk and a bare sidewalk to play with. Double bonus: Do writing-focused activities, like deep-dive character bios or setting histories in longhand. Try it. It works 🙂
  • Listen to music: Not head-banging, death-metal stuff (unless that’s your thing), but instrumental music. Or music with words, but the key there is to listen and not pay attention to the words. I listen to what we used to call “New Age” (maybe we still do call it New Age) and a lot of instrumental covers of popular music (The Piano Guys or David Garrett, for instance). And there’s always nature tracks, like waterfalls, rain, or bubbling brooks. Thunderstorms and ocean waves are my go-tos.
  • Get creative in other ways: Something that isn’t writing but is still creative helps to exercise that creative energy without weaving it into the structure writing can require. I know writers who are doing more quilting these days. I’ve been doing some crocheting (easy stuff like scarves and afghans). Playing music is another way to work the creative energy and settle your mind. I sat down at the piano again after ten years of not playing. It felt good.
  • Meditate: There are a lot of apps that help you learn to meditate, one of which offers a free subscription to health care and other front line workers (Headspace, I think), and another that offers a free membership for a year because of COVID-19 (Balance. Don’t know if they are still offering the free year). One of my writing sisters discovered a series of meditations for writers here. She ‘s been having a lot of success with them as she works on her WIP.
  • Get out in the garden: You knew this would be on my list, right? This ties back in with getting outside. Of course, there are annoying things like mosquitoes and weeds to contend with. Maybe it’s that physical connection to the earth that helps to ground us, because that’s really what it’s like. Nature can help us a lot if we pay attention.
  • Read: I’ve been reading a little more lately, and listening to audiobooks when I run. Full disclosure: Jim Butcher’s next Dresden book (after a six-year absence) is coming out soon, so I indulged in reading some of Harry’s earlier adventures. My favorite wizard! Reading to escape is different than reading to learn, but that’s the point, to escape. Reading to learn is also important to help us understand different perspectives and move forward in our craft and in our society.

Now that things are opening up, people who have been chomping at the bit because they’ve been cooped up are getting some respite, but I think a lot of writers have been pretty okay with the whole isolation thing. Yet even if you are an introvert, there is something to be said about being with other people, especially if you want to help in the midst of the chaos of the world.

Volunteering (taking proper safety precautions, of course) is a way to be around people and do something good for others and know you’ve been able to make a difference. This in turn helps you feel better and more settled, even if it’s nothing more than helping your elderly or sickly next door neighbor get their groceries for the week, or taking them to a doctor’s appointment.

My first round of revisions is coming along. I have one assignment left for my class, but I noticed a writer’s meditation that may help me with that. It’s on my to-do for today. It seems my other stories are starting to stir more, so once round one is finished for Book 2, I’ll give another story some attention for a bit while I let Book 2 rest.

Hope you all are doing well, staying healthy, and writing!

PS: I didn’t make it to the final round for the RONE award, but THANK YOU to everyone who voted!


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Week 6: Spring sticks around

leaves-4112335_640
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s been 6 weeks of working from home now. Wait. Okay, I can believe it. I believe it so much I’m going to take a mental health day next week, due in large part to unending frustration with our internet provider and slow internet speeds.

On the bright side, we’re one week closer to new service. I just hope the new service is way better than what we have now. We won’t know until we get it.

“You’re looking at it wrong, love.” My Muse closes the back door to my writing office and toes off his sneakers. He’s wearing a purple sweatshirt with the Minnesota Vikings logo on the front, a fitting(?) match to the Packers green sweatpants with the Green Bay logo on a thigh. “If you can’t use the internet, you won’t be so distracted.”

NFL Minnesota Vikings logo Green Bay Packers logo

“You know it’s risky to wear both those colors around here, right?”

“Here?” He waves a hand to include the entire office. “No. A sports bar in either state? Sure, but lucky for me there are no bars open right now.” He snags a beer from the mini-fridge and plops into one of the two recliners. “Besides, we have more important things to do than watch the draft.” He gestures with his beer. “Right?”

Don’t roll eyes. Don’t roll eyes. “Right. And you know that I’ve been working on my revisions.”

“Yes, you have. For the most part.”

“What do you mean, for the most part? I’m halfway through. And I’m going to turn in my next homework assignment this weekend.” Once I decide what scene to use.

“Uh-huh.” He narrows his eyes. “Just how much revision have you done this week?”

Not as much as I should have. Story of my life. “Hey, I did some revision every day until the internet started acting up a few days ago.” I think it’s the combination of week six of stay-at-home and frustration. At least spring seems to have locked in. “Besides, I took walks. Even went for a run the other day. That’s important, too.”

My Muse nods. “Yes, for you it is. However, you need to finish this class, and one more to get your second badge, and you have to finish your manuscript to get the certificate.”

“I know, I know. Which is why I’m using my WIP for homework assignments.” I’m participating in a Fiction Writing certificate program through UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies, and just received my first badge. I like to think of it as genuine “street cred”.

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Writing Fiction I - 2020-04-09

“It’s good incentive, love.” He slides to the front edge of the recliner and plants his elbows on his knees. “Let’s get that next assignment turned in so you can focus on revisions.”

“Wow, you are being exceptionally accommodating.”

“You are being,” he hesitates, “pleasantly diligent. Keep it up.”

I think “pleasantly diligent” means “butt in chair, fingers on keyboard without coersion”. Anyway, even though this stay at home stuff is getting old, especially with the internet issues, I feel I’m making progress. It helps that my daughter is working every day, and my son is still at his apartment (though he’s been home a few times over the past couple weeks). It’s warmer, so hubs is doing more stuff outside (read: the TV is off!), giving me more quiet time to write.

Hope you are all well and safe! Keep on writing!

Zoey the cat chilling on the deck