Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Musing craft #amrevising

I open the back door to my writing office, fresh off a walk. I find walking and thinking about whatever I’m writing, whether brainstorming a new story or plotline or pondering revisions, go together well. Even if I might look a little loony if someone decided to watch me walk and talk things through.

“Well, it’s about time you came back, love.” My Muse leans on my desk, sweating bottle of water in hand.

I finish toeing off my shoes before I look up. Oh. My. His tank top–wait, muscle shirt–shows off his sculpted shoulders and biceps. The cargo shorts don’t detract at all–trust me. And he’s got that five o’clock shadow thing going, just at that rougish stage.

He raises a brow.

Oh, yeah. “You know where I was. And I didn’t see you anywhere helping figure out how to strengthen my supporting characters in Book 2.”

“And why do you suppose they aren’t quite ‘there’ yet?”

I make my way past him to the mini-fridge to grab my own water. “I don’t know. That’s the problem. It’s like I want them to be in the background, but they can’t be. Shouldn’t be. They should seem just as real as my MCs.”

“Okay, so why aren’t they?”

I drop into one of the recliners in the alcove and swallow some cool water. It’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. I thought I rounded them out a bit, but apparently not enough. She made good points, and I can see how their characters are lacking. I’m just not entirely sure how to beef them up.

“Julie?”

“I’m thinking.”

He settles into the other recliner. “You’re thinking too hard.”

I can feel him staring at me. “Stop that.”

“You know how to fix it. You agent made good suggestions.”

“Yes, she did.”

“So? What’s the problem?”

I take another sip of water to stall. What is the problem?

“You know what it is, love. Say it.”

Damn it. “I don’t want them to be the focus of the story.”

“Not quite. Try again.”

Fine. “I don’t want them to take attention away from my MC.”

He smiles, the divot in his chin deepening. “She has to share the stage, love. It’s okay for other characters to figure out the mystery.”

“Not if the story belongs to my MC.”

A momentary frown crosses his face. “You’re right, not figure it out, but they have a stake in solving the mystery.”

“They do, but their actions are limited to pushing for answers, not digging around for them. That’s the job of my MCs.”

“Okay, so how can they do more pushing for answers? And remember, they have insights, too.” He finishes his water and tosses the bottle into the “Recycle” bin. “I can bring them over for a chat.”

“Not necessary.” I consider what he’s saying. They have insights …

My Muse grins. “There you go, love. I knew you’d figure it out.”

“Maybe, but will that be enough to fix the character issues? If they push to poke around for themselves, but my MC discourages them–to keep them safe?”

“You won’t know until you try.”

That’s the struggle, isn’t it? This is my first “book 2” (I do have a sequel drafted for my police procedural, but that’s a different formula because the MCs jobs are to solve the crime). I think part of the challenge is keeping in mind that readers may not have read the first book, so as the author you have to introduce the MCs again, and let the reader know the MCs nuances and stuff. I think that’s part of the reason I resist giving the secondary characters more of the story. I want the story to be about my MCs, but they aren’t in the story by themselves; the other characters need to be just as real to the readers, not just character actors from General Casting.

So, back to the revision board. And maybe my Muse has the right idea about bringing the characters over for a chat. We’ll see. I’ve got to look through my agent’s feedback in depth this weekend (I’ve already skimmed it) and keep this convo with my Muse in mind.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


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Getting back to the routine #amrevising #amplotting

I’ve been back home from my glorious writing reunion retreat with my Writing Sisters, and falling back into the routine. You know, the coffee, work, procrastinate, write, chill, rinse and repeat.

Same ol’, but predictable, and comforting in the “routine-ness” of it. Although, there are parts of a retreat I would love to translate to my everyday–no TV (well, no news other than the weather and the “feel good” stories about people being nice and helping people or animals), plotting help, and time to just write.

Escaping the everyday routine is something everyone needs to do on a regular basis. Seriously. It reminds a person that routines are good for keeping the regular tasks–like working or cleaning–in the pipeline, but it sure is nice to escape routine and just do the stuff that doesn’t always fit into the everyday (even if it should).

I once spoke to a well-known writer (William Kent Kreuger) during one of those out-of-the-daily-routine events (Left Coast Crime). He had his computer at a small table in a corner and was typing away. I asked him about it. He said he writes every single morning, whether he’s at home or on the road.

That’s my dream, to set a routine that even hitting the road won’t break. I might have to wait, though, simply because real life doesn’t think I should be that scheduled. It works much better during the winter when the garden isn’t a factor; I usually dedicate time in the evenings to writing. And I’ll bet it’ll work even better after I retire (if I can retire by then).

Hmm. When I started this post, my thought was to talk about plotting, and how valuable my Writing Sisters are when it comes to helping with story ideas. They managed to expand my long short story into a novella, and got me started plotting for Book 3. *looks around for Muse* I’ll have to save that for next week, I think.

Speaking of routines and how rude real life is when it comes to incorporating (shoehorning?) my creative endeavors into the time not occupied by necessities like work and sleep (and cleaning and meals and gardening), those out-of-the-routine events don’t escape blame. All those things we writers do to get our name out there, like conventions (Bouchercon, I’m looking at you) and book fairs and other author events, do their part in tossing rocks in the gears. I’m reading books from the other authors on my panel for B’con because I’m a backup moderator. I probably won’t need to step in, but just in case, I’m prepping.

They say “schedule a time that is sacrosanct for your writing.” Yeah, and tell all the rest of the stuff that HAS to get done to come back later. This weekend means cleaning (gawd, I’ve put it off long enough), two more batches of pickles, and finishing up a panelist’s book and starting another, because B’con is a mere 4 weeks away.

So looking forward to my personal writing retreat in October! And NaNo. My legit reasons to shun all the rest of the “stuff that needs to get done” and just focus on writing.

Take time to focus on writing, but also give yourself some leeway–real life doesn’t stop, and sometimes (often) it’s too important at the time to set aside (like family, job, cleaning (there is a point when you just have to do it), sleep). Do what you can when you can, and be okay with that. You may not release two novels a year (or even one novel in two years), but that time for writing is valuable.

Now to follow my own suggestion.

Happy Writing!

Tibbers and Nyx looking like they’re pretending to be innocent (but we know better 🙂 )


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Of gardens, retreats, and a Muse #amrevising #amwriting

I leave my shoes, complete with a layer of garden mud/dirt on the mat just inside the outside door to my writing office. Then I feel something crawling on my leg. I strip off my garden jeans. Wouldn’t you know it, an effing woodtick. I use my trusty multi-tool pliers to introduce the eight-legged curse to the physics of pressure between stainless steel jaws. Heh. Take that, you little bloodsucker!

Now to find my comfy cotton lounge pants, which I’m pretty sure I tossed onto one of the recliners. Before I take a step, I hear the other door of my office open.

My Muse comes around the wall that separates the alcove from the outside door before I can escape. He arches a brow. I can tell he’s struggling not to smile. “Well, that’s different.” He loses the battle, and his wide grin stops just short of a snicker.

“Shut up and toss me my lounge pants. They should be on the recliner.”

He doesn’t move, just stares at me with a shit-eating grin.

“Fine, I’ll go around the other way.” I can get a clean T-shirt while I’m at it. I grab the handle of the door I just came through.

“Hang on, love.” My Muse disappears around the wall into the alcove and reappears a second later with my comfy pants in hand.

“Give.”

He makes a show of looking from my pants to his white T-shirt with its graphic of a surfing koala to me and back. “You know, you are as pale as my shirt.”

Well, at least he didn’t mention the fact I haven’t shaved my legs since last fall. “And that surprises you how? I live in Minnesota, and it’s barely summer. Toss me my pants.”

He pitches them to me. I practically jump into them.

“I’m sure there’s a good story behind that,” he says. I can hear the laughter in his voice.

“Yes, it was a woodtick. I killed it.” I push past him and grab my laptop off my desk before I settle into a recliner. “By the way, where have you been?”

He grabs two bottles of water from the mini-fridge and hands one to me as he settles into the other recliner. “Around. When are you going back to that cute little cabin?”

“Not until October. Glad you liked it.” It was definitely a good few days. No distractions except those of my own making (and with lousy internet, fewer of those). No TV all day long, no news, no work, no trying to focus when there’s all the other stuff to do, like clean, and procrastinate cleaning.

“Hmm. You should go back before then.”

“Can’t. Besides, it’ll be way busier over the summer.”

“Bummer. You’re about due to go back to Book 2, aren’t you?”

“Yes.” I’d like to spend more time on my police procedural, though. Sort of. I got the scenes rearranged, and I’m on the first run through them to make sure all the events that I rearranged are now in the proper sequence. I feel like I’ve lost some of the voice, though. I’ll have to focus on that on the next round.

“Tell you what, love. Give the procedural one more week, then get Book 2 done.”

“That’s the plan. I still have to figure out how to cut 10,000 words.” Ten thousand words? I almost–almost–forgot about that.

“And don’t forget about those novellas.”

“I haven’t.” I can’t work on those until I get Book 2 revised and sent back to my agent. “You aren’t planning on disappearing for a pub crawl or anything are you?”

He winks at me, dimples deep in his cheeks with his sly smile. “No plans, love, but I haven’t seen E for a while.”

Whew, it’s getting warm in here. Better get to work. Hope everyone is doing well, writing well, and staying healthy!

Last week, kitten flashback. Here they are all grown up!


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I’m baaack! #amwriting #amediting

Blueberry Trail – Shire in the Woods

Last weekend I ventured farther north to my personal writing retreat. If you look at a map of MN, there’s a big lake sorta in the middle to the northish of the middle of the state–Lake Mille Lacs. My retreat was a bit east of that, a roughly three-hour drive for me. Our trees were almost fully dressed, but up by Lake Mille Lacs they were just starting to leaf out.

The place I stayed, Shire in the Woods, started out as a hermitage, but now offers cabin rentals for those who like the peace and quiet (except when people drive their motorcycles around and kids use their outside voices). It’s at the edge of “Lake Country”–farther north and west is the bulk of the vacation/resort area–so I suspect a lot of people stay there as a “home base” for fishing adventures. It’s also at the edge of a state park–more comfortable than camping, but not so ostentatious as “glamping”.

I didn’t take any pics of the cabin I stayed in because they have quite a few on their website. I stayed in the Loft, a tiny cabin with an upstairs (cool spiral staircase!). One amenity is free internet, but I found the internet connection flakey and barely usable. Which is fine, except that meant no research (heh, no rabbit holes) and barely sufficient to check email.

Looking out the front window of the Loft

I chose this cabin because of the two levels (separates sleeping area from working area) and the glider rockers. I like to sit in a recliner with the footrest out when I write, so these were appealing. There’s a tiny kitchenette that includes a mini-fridge and the bare basics of salt, pepper, coffee, sugar, creamer. I brought my own coffee (nice excuse to get some good coffee 🙂 ).

It was cool and gloomy–I think I saw maybe a total of a half-hour of sunshine the entire three days. The cabins are small enough (at least the Loft was) to not be too cold. There was an electric heater (one of the ones that look like a skinny radiator), which kept the place warm enough that I didn’t have to use any wood.

My intent had been to wander the trails a bit, but things were still thawing and drying out, so the one trail I did venture on had some low, very wet (standing water) spots. And wood ticks! Ugh! I brought some bug repellent with DEET on purpose because I know that a) it’s tick season, and b) they have deer ticks in the area. So as I’m trying to walk a trail and skirt around the wet spots, I’m traipsing through last year’s dead grasses and naked branches, prime wood tick hangouts.

I still managed to get wet feet (granted, they do tell you to bring waterproof footwear because of those low spots), and I have never seen so many wood ticks trying to hitch a ride at one time. I got back to the cabin, and brushed nearly a dozen ticks off my pants–that I had sprayed with DEET (40% DEET)! I showered right away, so I could warm up and make sure no ticks found a meal.

Needless to say, I didn’t venture on the trails after that. Note to self: probably a good idea to bring waterproof boots next time. And more bug spray. Lots more bug spray.

I finished my revisions for Book 2; now to let it cool off a bit before one more run though it. Also some progress on my police procedural that I have to reorganize. Not so much writing with that one yet, but shuffling scenes around. I did determine I need to write out a timeline to get the sequence of events set in my head; the index cards help, but I learned I need to walk through the scenes in a timeline format to really get a handle on where they are in the story.

Overall, a success! I’m going to go back for another retreat in October, after the tourist season but before the winter weather season (usually). Maybe it’ll be after tick season by then, and it’s usually pretty dry as well.

Next time I’m going to try the Woodlands cabin. Single level, but seems to be laid out in a way that allows some separation between the sleeping area and the working area. And it’s tucked away from the main activity. That is one thing I noticed–though the cabins have some trees between them, they’re still pretty close to each other in the grand scheme. The Woodlands is set apart; I found it during my trail adventure.

This weekend is garden planting weekend for me, so I’ll be not writing for most of it–boo–except it’s supposed to rain, so we’ll see how far I get.

For all those in the US, have a great holiday weekend!


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I’m baaack–what a con(ference)! #amwriting #lcc2022

My very first time as moderator for a panel. L to R: Me, Tori Eldridge, Margaret Mizushima, Linda L Richards, Faye Snowden. Great authors! (photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuhn (yes, I copied it from her FB post))

I flip to yet another fresh sheet in my notebook. The tough thing about a synopsis is picking out the most important points of the story–out of 300+ pages. I’ve got the inciting incident, and the climax (I think). Oh, and the midpoint reversal. So, now I need a couple more points to transition between each, right?

The back door to my writer’s office opens, letting in a crisp breeze–and a couple stray leaves. “Damn it, shut the door. It’s frickin’ cold and windy out there.” Sheesh. Would never guess we’re halfway through April by the weather.

My Muse peels off his jacket and hangs it on the coat rack. He’s wearing a fisherman’s sweater with his worn-well jeans. He exchanges his sneakers for those big fuzzy bearpaw slippers.

“Cold feet?” I ask. “Those things are kind of ridiculous, you know. They clash with that ‘just off the set of a GQ photo shoot’ thing you’ve got going.”

He tosses me a wry grin, the divot in his chin deepening. “I knew you liked my slippers.” He settles a hip on the corner of my desk. “I see you’re finally back to work.”

I lean back in my chair. “Hey, I’m finally feeling almost normal again. Nothing like getting back from a trip and getting slammed with a wicked head cold. Hell, I couldn’t see through the brain fog for two days.”

“Uh huh.” He doesn’t sound impressed.

“Just because you never get sick. Just how wild did you and the other muses get during your own convention in Albuquerque? I didn’t see you around.”

He crosses his arms on his broad, sweater-covered chest. “Our convention was great. You, on the other hand …”

“I had a great convention. I met some great authors. I have more options for blurbs. My very first panel I moderated went surprisingly well. My panel went well. I even managed to avoid making a fool of myself at the new author breakfast with my 1-minute pitch. So, yeah, it was a great convention. I even got to talk to William Kent Kreuger. Nice guy.”

“Uh-huh. And what did he tell you, love?”

“He writes every morning, even when he’s on the road.”

My Muse just stares at me with those incredible blue eyes.

“I can do that. Maybe not always in the mornings, but in the evenings. I’ve done it before. It’s how I draft all my books.”

He sighs. “You need to focus, love.”

Goes without saying. “You need to help me with my synopsis, which I haven’t worked on since I got back because head cold.”

So before I settle in to work on my synopsis, just want to toss out there if you ever get an opportunity to attend a writing or genre conference, try to do it. It’s a wonderful experience, and a great way to network.

Have a Happy Easter/Ramadan/Passover/what have you! May Spring decide to get serious and stick around for a while!

Furry belly Tibbers and Nyx