Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Back in the flow — sort of #amwriting

Last weekend’s writing conference was a blast, even if it was busy for me, with panels and presentations and one-on-one meetings with other writers. As an introvert, that sort of event, even if it is a wonderful meeting of writers doing writerly things and talking everything writing, is draining. On the other side of it, though, is the sheer amount of creative energy that coalesces at these events. I think it has a lot to do with all those muses getting together. It’s like a muse convention.

In any case, that creative energy has clung to me, and I have started writing again. Nothing major, but it’s a start. Right now I’m writing longhand, because I think that encourages the process somehow. And I can feel a sort of relief as I’m writing again. It’s like I get anxious when I don’t write for too long.

Then again, maybe that anxiety has to do with the blizzard we had this week, with around 5 inches of heavy wet snow. And damn it, the grass was just starting to turn green and the trees are starting to bud. Ugh. And now it melts. So, three inches of slushy snow + gravel driveway = almost impassable even with 4WD. I hope things dry out a bit by the time I go back to work on Monday.

In the meantime, I have the weekend slated for Easter entertaining preparation (read: spring cleaning). Nothing like the thought of relatives coming over to kick off a frenzy of cobweb chasing and dust bunny wrangling. But what better way to put off cleaning than to sit down and write?

I open the door to my writing office and discover the light is already on. And guess who is chilling behind my desk?

“It’s about time, love. I thought you would be a bit more industrious after the conference.” My Muse pulls his feet off my desk and exits my chair, sweeping an arm in its direction. “I warmed it up for you.” The smirk on his face tells me he probably did more than warm it up. I’d better check for whoopi cushions or tacks.

“Would I do that to you?” He sits on a corner of the desk, one leg dangling. His dark denim jeans, white t-shirt, and flannel shirt in the traditional red and black checkerboard pattern, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, makes me wonder what he’s up to. It’s like he’s preparing for a wilderness tour. Not that I’m complaining. Nope. Not complaining about the rugged look at all. I should be thankful there is no fedora or bullwhip in sight.

“Really, love? Why would I be up to anything but nurturing your creativity?” His crooked smile tells me I’m more right than I hoped.

“Uh-huh. Like you and all those other muses at the conference didn’t swap ‘how to get your writer’s butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard’ stories? I’m sure you have a few new ideas.”

“I do. But I won’t use them unless I have to. You seem to be getting your stride back. Good job.”

“Don’t get too excited. You know I have to get ready for Easter.”

“Yes, but you’re writing again. And you set yourself up to be accountable with your project.”

What I suspect he didn’t say was something about being disappointed that being accountable to him isn’t enough. “You know, you are really good at your job. It’s just … I need someone who can help me work through the process again.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been helping writers work through the process?”

Honestly, I’m afraid to ask. With my luck he probably worked with Dante. Probably gave the man the idea for the circles of Hell. “No, but I’m good with that. Not knowing. I’ll be diving in to that after Easter. Promise.”

He studies me with those blue eyes of his. The room is getting warmer. I swear it is. His eyes narrow. “Good. I’m going to hold you to that, love.”

Ahh, yeah. O-kay. Anyway …

This weekend focusing on a much-needed, long-delayed bout of spring cleaning. Despite the three inches of rapidly-melting slush outside. Ick. Just when everything had finally dried out, we get this. Winter, you made your point, now go on vacation until, like, Christmas. Okay, maybe Thanksgiving. Just go away.

Have a wonderful writing week!

 

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Another awesome conference! #UWWriters #writingcommunity #amwriting

30th-writers-institute-email

Whew! What a weekend! I’m here in Mad City, Wisconsin for the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute. The conference has gotten so popular that it now runs from Thursday morning through Sunday noon. And there is plenty of great stuff to go around. First, though, a well-deserved round of applause to Laurie Scheer and her team of tireless minions–er, assistants who help organize and run this conference.

(yes, you can say it: Julie takes lousy pictures.)

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Laurie Scheer welcomes writers to the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute

One of the keynote speakers this year was Jane Friedman, who spoke about writing for love and money, and about the myth of the “starving artist”. She shared the stories of various artists who managed to combine their creativity and business models into successful careers, such as Jim Henson and Alain de Botton. The key to success: use creativity to find more readers, because as more people demand your work, the more your writing (business) will grow.

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

 

The following day Jennie Nash was our keynote speaker. She shared three reasons authors give for writing a book. Writing a book has a high emotional cost, and low ROI (return on investment), so every author she and her team work with over at Author Accelerator are presented with the question: Why write a book? The answers boil down to these: to find and claim your voice (which may have been suppressed in the past), to influence other people or make an impact, or to write a book before reaching those pearly gates. And ultimately, “writers gotta write”. Find the reason that speaks to you and tap into that energy.

Jennie nash

Jennie Nash

So many great sessions, so little time. I got to the conference on Thursday and caught three sessions. One was about a digital brand cheat sheet, presented by a high-energy social media influencer. She showed us the potential of social media to reach far beyond your family and friends.

Another session explained how bookstores–at least independent ones–go about decided what books to stock, and the best ways for writers to succeed in getting books on their shelves. It comes down to Fit–is your book a fit for that store, Timing–is the store ready to pull in new books, and Approach–suggestions on how to approach a bookstore about carrying your book and the things to accomplish beforehand (like ISBN numbers and early reviews).

An agent shared the biggest pitfalls writers make while revising their stories, starting with the familiar “starting the story in the wrong place.” Other things to watch for include characters that are not fully formed on the page, a lack of a physical sense of setting, raising stakes, and not following through on your promise to the reader (what is the story you are setting in motion). These things can be spotted by critique partners and beta readers, so the moral of the story: you can’t do it all on your own.

I popped into a session about author websites, which gave a lot of the same information Dan Blank did in his author website video series (check out his WeGrowMedia site and sign up for his newsletter. Really. If nothing else, his kids are cute ๐Ÿ˜€ ). Another session listed ways to “bring back the thrill” of your writing; making it fun again. The ten points included giving yourself easy goals and rewards for your accomplishments (and yes, a piece of good chocolate or a latte counts ๐Ÿ˜€ ), playing with your reader by inserting inside jokes (case in point: R. R. Campbell used the names of the universities in his books for the jokes, and no, I’m not going to tell you–mwahahahaha), listening to your characters and what they want to do, and surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities and encourage you. Finally, remember you are competing against no one–you are the only one who can tell your story.

Good stuff. I participated on a panel about writing books in a busy life, where we shared our own strategies and offered ideas on how other writers could carve out that time to write. A number of attendees found me later to express their appreciation for the panel, because it gave them some direction on how they could overcome the excuses of not having time to write. And yes, I learned a few things myself. I’m sure my Muse will remind me the next time I complain. ๐Ÿ˜€

I presented two sessions, one on “Setting as a Character”, which had a full room. I hope the writers got something out of the session. It was my first of the conference, and somehow I ended up with a lot of time left over. Hmm. My second session, about point of view, was much less attended, but one of the other sessions about outlining was very popular (I know it was, because some writers spoke to me before the session about wanting to sit in, but they also wanted to sit in on the outlining session).

The highlight of my experience, though–besides getting to see some of my Writing Sisters–was the Success Panel, where authors who have utilized the WI or Write-by-the-Lake or other writing programs from UW-Continuing Studies are now newly-published or have a new book out. Check us out.

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Success Panel 2019

The closing ceremony is Sunday, when we wrap up the conference. The energy generated by so many writers and creative people infuses the atmosphere here. It always amazes me how wonderful the writing community is. We try to help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. And every year I encounter writers who are attending for the first time, and see their wonder at these welcoming arms.

There is a reason the Writers’ Institute is listed as one of the top writing conferences in the country. And every year I have to agree. It has once again recharged my creative energies and given me lots of ideas on how to approach aspects of my journey as a published author, including wielding social media tools and focusing on “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”.

If you have a writing conference on your wish list, take a look at this one for next year. You won’t be disappointed!

zoey1


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No rest for the writer #amwriting #writers

FIRST order of business: A huge hearty THANK YOU to everyone who hosted me for my book release blog tour! You were all great, and busy–holy cow, I think there were three blog tours running at the same time. Bravo and thank you to all those who stopped by mine and the other tours!

Woo-hoo! Finally the weekend! Kids are at school, the weather is spring-like, and I can relax and unwind from–

“A-hem.”

Damn. He’s behind me, isn’t he. Good thing I decided not to do my version of the Snoopy dance.

“Like I haven’t seen it before, love. Go ahead. Get it out of your system.”

Well, now I don’t want to do it. I turn. Sure enough, my Muse is giving me the “are you quite finished” look. “What?”

He leans against the desk in my writing office, all rugged eye candy, especially with those fine-fitting jeans and his burgundy henley, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. He crosses those sinewy arms, which just pulls my gaze to his broad chest.

“You’re not usually so blatant about that, love.”

Damn again. I force myself to focus on his face, with the dimple in his chin and that bare shadow from five o’clock. And those blue eyes …

“Hey,” he barks as he snaps his fingers. “Focus.”

I shake my head to shuffle my thoughts. That was weird.

“Not really.”

“Would you stop that?” I’d feel better if he couldn’t read all my thoughts. Especially those thoughts.

He chuckles, and the room warms. Or maybe it’s just me. “I’m your Muse, love. And it’s flattering.” He raises a finger. “But you need to focus. You have stuff to do before you leave next week.”

“I know. I know. I just finished the blog tour. I think it went pretty well.” Now to catch up on all those other blogs I didn’t get to. Not sure I’ll ever catch up at this rate. “Speaking of, I hope you and Mr. E got your pub crawling done for a while.” I have to get moving on Book 2. For the eighth time.

He smiles that crooked smile that makes the room get even warmer. “You have other priorities this week. Sounds like it’s going to be a grand gathering this year.”

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April 4-7 ย  Register now, because it’ll be a blast!

Yes! I can’t wait! There is something about being around all those other writers at the conference that stirs up creative energy.

“And you need to get your presentations put together.”

Um. Yeah. “You really know how to crash a weekend vibe.” At least he didn’t remind me of …

“You have cleaning on your list.” He holds up a piece of paper–where did he snag my list from? “Oh, and that can’t wait.” He ticks off an item. “This can wait, but you better do this one this weekend.”

“Where the hell did you get my list? And which one?”

“The dreaded ‘clean the refrigerator’ one.” He sets the list on the desk beside him. “So, can we get the presentations done tomorrow? Then you have the whole next day to clean.”

Oh joy.

This year will be a busy one at the Writers’ Institute, now that I have a real book I can sell at the book sale. And two presentations. And two panels. So, I’ll be getting further behind in my quest to catch up on reading blogs. Next week’s post will go live a day later than usual so I can get all the good stuff in from the big days at the conference. And it’s all good stuff ๐Ÿ˜€

Enjoy your weekend!

zoey chair

Does this chair make me look fat?

 


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Winter, you need to go. Seriously.

hoarfrost 1 Since I didn’t get a fresh picture of the snow we’ve gotten over the past 2 weeks, I’ll recycle this one, which doesn’t show the foot of snow we now have. So, imagine another 10 inches of snow in the picture.

The weather people say our average temperature for this time of year should be around 30 F.

High temp today: all of 10 F.

We are now within 6 inches of the all-time snowiest February on record. As it is, we are in 4th place.

Talk about wonky weather. Yep, I’m done with it. Soo ready for spring.

As I’m shooting in the dark putting my website and email list and newsletter and everything else that comes with it together, part of me is thinking about seed catalogs. I usually take an evening and look through seed catalogs during the New Year’s holiday time off.

I have a stack of seed catalogs, and haven’t looked at a single one yet.

And the inevitable question: garden or no garden?

Then the inevitable ‘hold on there’: tomatoes fresh from the garden. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and all the other things that taste so much better fresh from the garden, like asparagus, cucumbers, beets, peppers, kale, zucchini, green beans, cilantro, onions, etc.

And the next inevitable thoughts: Weeds. Mosquitoes. Rabbits. zoeyprowl

Effing rabbits.

And there’s Book 2, along with the 6 or 7 rough drafts in its wake. Not sure what I’m going to say to my editor when she asks when she’ll be able to see it. Or a synopsis.

So maybe I’ll take a night and look through seed catalogs. Pick out one new thing to grow. Maybe I’ll do pumpkins this year; haven’t done those for a while. Or maybe brussels sprouts–I didn’t do those last year, but I love them, especially roasted with sweet potatoes. Maybe I’ll plant marigolds around the perimeter, just to make me feel better about trying to keep the rabbits out. And maybe spinach again, since I now know that spinach seeds are only viable for a year; no wonder those leftover seeds from two years ago never came up.

I guess this means I’ll do a garden. There is something about growing plants and being in touch with the dirt that renews the soul. It will probably be neglected, because writing. And promoting. Which also reminds me I have some blog tour posts to finish and send out. If you are on my list, I’m hoping to get them to you by the beginning of the week. I’ll be in touch. (If you aren’t on my list and want to be, let me know ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Have a great weekend!

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Ta-da! #amreading #mystery #coverreveal

ferret-361577_640 Happy Finally-can-get-out-of-the-driveway Day!

The past few weeks have been a reminder that yes, it IS winter in Minnesota, and yes, it SUCKS if you have to drive anywhere. Last week we had the polar invasion of the “OMG Cold” temps and wind chills. This week was the week we got all the snow we should have been getting all season.

Needless to say, I am so glad I can work from home. Although, there is something to be said about getting out of the house for 10 hrs (8 hr shift + 1 hr commute both ways). And cabin fever has become one of my “favorite” terms this week.

Hubs finally cleared the driveway last night. We got 4-5 inches of snow in the first wave, and an additional 2-4 inches in the second wave, so he waited until both waves went through before snowblowing. Remember, we have a 1/4 mile driveway, so there was no way I was getting out until he cleared the drive. Oh, and the ground blizzard afterwards. It was like we were in one of those National Geographic episodes they film in the Arctic. Or the Antarctic. Take your pick.

So, all that time the past week I didn’t have to commute I spent working on my promo stuff. You know, figuring out how to build a website, designing FB headers, Twitter headers, waiting impatiently for my publisher to fix stuff. The usual.

Thing is, we’re within 6 weeks of release, and according to my editor, they are WAY behind. Turns out they have been enjoying the same type of lousy winter weather we’ve been having. They are out in the Northwest, and while here in MN we get some ice and a lot of snow, in Seattle they don’t get quite as cold. And hills. Lots of hills. So icy + hills = not fun. So I decided to “help”. Actually, I decided I can’t wait any longer for them to get some of this stuff done.

Are you ready?

You sure?

In case you were wondering about the ferret, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Heh. See what I did there?

You really sure you’re ready?

3 …

2 …

1 …

Ta-Da!

cover smaller

Release date: March 12, 2019

ย Sierra Bauer, aircraft mechanic, struggled against personal tragedy to reclaim control of her life and her aviation career, but when she discovers a frozen body in her inspection plane, she must prove her innocence and uncover the key to exposing a deadly aviation conspiracy before she becomes the next casualty.

Here are the links for pre-order:ย  Barnes and Nobleย ย ย ย ย ย ย  Amazon

BE AWARE there will be an ebook as well, but my publisher has not listed it yet. There will also be an audiobook that should be available at the same time; the audiobook publisher is working to match the book’s release date. I still have to add search categories to the Amazon listing, but there are some good posts around about how to do that.

Whew. Okay, I feel better now. Sort of. There is still a lot to do and not a whole lot of time in which to do it.

The next thing on the list is lining up compadres who would like to help spread the word on release day. Give me a shout if you want in: jmgoebel (at) outlook (dot) com (don’t ask. really.) or use the contact form on my About page. I already have a few takers. Still working on those release posts ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope to unveil my author website soon, with a cool countdown to the release.

This is getting both exciting and scary.

Okay, back to work. Have a wonderful weekend all!

Zoe2_cr


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Getting closer … #amreading #mystery

Wave if you survived the deep freeze *waves*ย  This weekend will be above freezing according to the weather people. Yippee–until the freezing rain hits on Monday. And the cold returns (but not as brutal as this past week).

Hoo-boy. Or as they say in the Great White North–uff da!

I’ve been working on all that marketing and promo stuff that goes along with a book release, like planning the cover reveal, writing posts for a release tour, waiting impatiently for the book listings to be completed …

I’ve been paying attention and taking notes on the stuff some of my writer blogging friends do for their book releases. Now that I’m doing it, I wonder how on earth they find the time. And writing besides.

Did you figure out how to get more hours in the day? I mean, seriously.

Then again, I’m spending a lot of time with Canva to put some promo stuff together and a lot of time poking around WordPress to set up my author site. I have a landing page–woo-hoo! Sure, it says it’s under construction, but there’s a button that comes here to the blog, and another button that lets the visitor sign up for my newsletter–I just got that working. Woo-hoo!

Wait. Now I have to figure the whole newsletter thing out. Plus start setting up events. Plus order bookmarks and other swag through my publisher. Plus pray I can get physical books by the first weekend in April in time for the Writers’ Institute.

Oh, and I need to plan the workshop I’m conducting in March for our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Oh, yeah, and the two presentations for the Writers’ Institute.

And it’s February already?! Where did I put my duplicator?

calvin-and-hobbes-duplicator

I have my cover, and I just caught this great post on Terry Odell’s site. So, cover mockup it is. Pretty cool, actually. Thanks, Terry!

Heh. You didn’t really think I would show you, did you? Well, I was going to, but that unfinished listing still bugs the crap out of me. And I don’t have images ready to put up everywhere yet. Now that I have my nifty 3d cover mockup, guess what I’ll be doing this weekend.

I went through the galley proof this week as well. Another step closer.

Six weeks and counting. And my publisher still hasn’t finished the Amazon listing. *grumble* Since it is Amazon, and I have an Author Central account now, I’m going to ask my agent if it would be kosher for me to at least add the cover and the search terms. On the bright side, the BN listing is almost complete. Still missing the ebook on both sites. Just. Frustrating.

So, another teaser to tide you over (and I thank Staci for giving me the idea of these little tidbits (check the comments for last week’s post if you’re curious)) Why do I feel like rubbing my hands together and saying “mwahahahaha”?

teasers(2)

Getting closer.

And of course:

zoey1


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Plotting, you say?

For some reason, when I see the word “plotting”, my mind conjures up an image of a stereotypical bad guy from black and white silent films. You know, the one with the handlebar moustache and wringing hands, along with the “mwahahahahaha”.
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But when I think about plotting, it’s different. It’s a concept, the idea of a path through a story where stuff happens. Not an outline, because that seems too rigid. Of course, when I think of “outline”, I think of those reports we used to do back in school. You remember the ones: Roman numerals, paragraph topics, supporting facts, 3 x 5 inch index cards, and sources. Always had to have at least three sources (and there was no Wikipedia or Internet at the time). Back then, we had to go to the library and do our research.

I know, ancient history!

When I started preparing for my very first NaNoWriMo, I decided to write a completely new story, and not just rehash the one I had been working on up to that point. I found a great book by Karen Wiesner: First Draft in 30 Days. She has a set of worksheets she uses to put together a story, including character sketches, setting notes, timelines, fact sheets, and plot sketches. In essence, a book bible.

I created a OneNote template that had tabs for each worksheet, and they guided me through that first NaNo draft. The parts that really helped me put the story together, though, were the summary outline and the miscellaneous scene notes. Basically, a free-form exercise to walk through this is what happens, this happens next, then this, etc. There are also timeline sheets to help work out the order of events.

I ended up with a story I didn’t expect, but I enjoyed writing it. Didn’t finish it, but that’s on my list; I know how it ends, I just have to write it.

Fast-forward to now. I still use those worksheets, but I have learned that one of the best ways for me to walk through a story and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t work is to write a stream-of-consciousness summary of the story from beginning to end. By hand.

Should I call it plotting? I suppose it is, but it feels more fluid than “plotting”, yet more planned than “pantsing”. *scans the room to make sure the Muse isn’t giving me a stink-eye* I’ve been struggling with the plot for book 2, so I have been doing this process repeatedly, trying to nail down just what wasn’t working.

One of the keys, I learned, is asking “what if” questions when I run into something that doesn’t feel right to me. Initially the story opened with two characters dead–one of natural causes, the other of an unfortunate hunting “accident”. It didn’t feel right. Then I had three characters die. Nope, so back to two characters, but one that started dead in an earlier draft was now alive and another dead instead.

Better, but it still didn’t feel right. Still, I ran with it, did NaNo with that premise, and spent December writing yet another SOC plot summary. Multiple plot summaries.

And I asked, “what if”? What if there was only one dead character? What if he had the hobby the other once-dead character had? What if that airplane he was rebuilding lived in a hangar at the airport instead of a shed in the backyard? The nefarious stuff is happening at the airport, and he would be there anyway to spy–er, casually notice the goings-on, and doesn’t need an excuse to go there.

Click.

I’ve got it now. There are still a few things to work out, but once the routine is back in place after the kids are back at college and all that extraneous energy is dissipated, I’m eager to start the heavy revisions. Or maybe yet another rough draft. In any case, I feel better about this version of the story than any of the earlier ones.

Finally.

Hope your new year is starting out well. Lots of writing and all that!

And by special request (yes, B, I remembered ๐Ÿ˜€ )

zoey

Happy Writing!