Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Muse-ing revisions #amwriting #amediting #amrevising

Mr. Snow Miser

I open the door to warm air hitting my face like the breath of a sauna. Just my luck my writer lives in Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes and fecking cold winters. Ice crystals melt from my eyelashes.

“Shut the fricking door!”

The door swings shut with a thud. I might be a Muse, but when it’s so cold it hurts to breathe, I start thinking about tropical getaways and surfing. My writer is not at her desk, so she must be in one of the recliners. I peel off layers, slip my feet into toasty slippers, and make my way around to the alcove.

“Cold enough for you?” My writer looks up from her laptop. She has the footrest extended, a crocheted afghan on her legs, and who knows how many layers of socks she’s wearing inside those bootie slippers. A fuzzy gray hoodie give me the distinct impression she’s cold. That, and the afghan. Oh, hell, she’s always cold. A steaming mug of something sits on the small table between the recliners. Smells like apple cider, but not quite. Tea?

“Why don’t you live someplace warmer, like Hawaii?”

“Do you have any idea how many times my hubs and I have said that?” She sips her tea. “And then we remember how expensive it is to live there.” A strand of too-long bangs slips from her barrette into her face. She brushes it back. “Why do you bother going out? It’s not like you have to actually walk anywhere. Can’t you just teleport or whatever?”

Or whatever. “It’s for the experience, love.” I check out the wall-sized whiteboard before snagging a lager from the mini-fridge and dropping into the other recliner. “I thought you were trying to cross stuff off the list. I see more notes.”

She leans her head back and sighs. “Reminders. I’ve sat in on some good webinars lately. I’m going to have to do another round of revision after this one.”

I could have told her that a long time ago, but it’s better for her to figure it out for herself. “You were still fine-tuning the plot on this round.”

“Well, right, but I sat in on a revising webinar that made me realize I need a round of revision just for that.”

“That’s good, love.” I flip up the footrest. “Care to share?” I know what she wants to focus on, but if she says it, she’ll remember better.

“Scenes. I have to think in scenes.”

“Isn’t that what you do?”

“I mean, I need to look at each scene again and ask what the character wants, why they want it, and what’s stopping them. The scene goal. Oh, man, I can hear my writing teacher’s voice.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes, always. Definitely better than hearing someone with a Mickey Mouse voice say it.” She turns her head toward me. “You could say it. I could listen to that baritone Aussie voice of yours anytime.”

I chuckle. “You don’t get tired of listening to me badger you about all those things you need to do and don’t?”

She sighs. “No. Well, yes … it’s like listening to Sam Elliott, but better. ”

I can’t help grinning. “Not Barry White?” I tease, doing my best impression.

Her breath whooshes out. She clears her throat, tugs the afghan off her legs, and shoves her sleeves to her elbows. “Stop that. The point is, I thought this round was my ‘check the scene goal’ round. I had to fix some plot stuff, so I didn’t pay as close attention to that. I’ve got to go through it again, and look for the stuff I learned from the webinar. That’s what the new notes on the board are for.”

Some days I’m really proud of my writer. “What’s your plan?”

“Look at each scene, make sure there is a scene goal, and check for action, relationship, information, suspense, and emotion–reader emotion.” She bounces her head against the recliner back. “So much to learn! So much to remember. I feel like I’ll never finish it.”

“You will, love. Then you get to move on to the next project.”

She gives me a sideways glance. “You’re sticking around, right? No pub crawls with E.”

“I’ll be here. I think E is busy with Mae after that nor’easter went through.”

shivering smiley

Nothing like a week of double-digit, sub-zero windchills to give a writer an excuse to stay inside. Hope everyone is staying warm and safe!

Happy Writing!


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New Year, absent writer?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

“Hello?”

My voice echoes in the dimness like a shout in the Sydney Opera House. Faded light from the foggy winter landscape outside strains to illuminate my writer’s empty office. I flip a switch. The dim retreats.

“Julie?”

Where the bloody hell is she? Since NaNo, she’s been writing every day, especially over the holidays. That is, until this week. I can hear her reasoning now: I took the whole week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, plus the weekends, and we didn’t go anywhere because COVID. Now I’m back to work, so no, I’m not writing as much as I did the past couple weeks.

If she was here, I’d tell her she needs to write every day whether she’s on vacation or not. Once her vacation was over, her writing dropped off a cliff. Not a cliffhanger cliff, a writing cliff. And now she’s AWOL.

“Julie? Don’t make me send out the dragons.”

No answer.

Sigh. Her desk is empty. Messy, but empty. The recliners are empty. I check the little fridge. That’s empty, too? The wall-sized white board is not empty, thank goodness. Notes cover the surface in various colors. At least I know she’s planning to come back.

I open the back door of the office. Icy fog coats the naked trees in frost and filters the sunlight into a dull glow.

Bootprints lead from the office into the fog. “Julie!” Damn it.

What? You thought we come and go at our writer’s whim? You think writers have a little bell they ring to call up a muse every time they sit down to write? Ha! We know writers work better when they open themselves to us, not when they sit down and ask us to shove creative energy into them. Although that can work, we usually save that as a backup plan.

In my vast store of experience (and no, I’m not going to tell you how long I’ve been doing this gig), we get the best results when we hang out around our writer all the time. Not that we don’t take a break for a pub crawl or surf outing, but we’re like the cat that shows up wherever you are, too damn tenacious to shake.

A figure appears in the fog, trudging toward me. About fecking time. “Where have you been, love?”

She blows out a cloudy breath. “I have shit to do, and it’s cramping my writing time. And focus. And I haven’t even gotten to the cleaning. I needed to walk.”

“What shit to do?” I ask, challenging her. I know exactly what she’s doing. Procrasinating. Happens every time she goes back to work after a long vacation, even when she works from home.

She narrows her eyes before she rolls them. “You really need me to list the stuff?” She shoves past me into the office. “Which reminds me, I need to make a list.”

“There’s a list on the board, love.”

“A new list. One that includes redoing my website, catching up with blog reading–I’m so freaking far behind, and taxes. Gotta pay sales tax for the three books I sold last year. Sheesh. I’ll be glad when we can do in-person events again. This virtual stuff doesn’t foster that connection between writer and reader.”

“And the novella is on that list, right?” I ask. “Along with the editing of your police procedural and finishing the first draft of the rural mystery?”

She toes her boots loose and flips them off. “Yeah, but first Book 2. And damn it, I can’t fricking focus anymore.” She shuffles to the fridge.

“It’s empty. I checked.”

She sighs. “You know, this year at work we have to use up all our vacation by the end of the year, since we’ll be starting on our new parent company’s self-managed time off scheme next year. I think I’m going to spend some time at that little place with the cabins up toward Lake Mille Lacs. All by myself.”

“Alone?”

Another eye roll. “Gawd. You know what I mean. A whole week of nothing but you and me and writing. No TV, no garden, no work, no cleaning, no anything except writing. In the woods.”

“Sounds nice, love. Any pubs nearby?”

She groans. Or growls. I can’t tell. “I’ll be back.” She swings the office door open. “I’m going to get some water. And I need some help coming up with a good short story to submit. Maybe a ghost story. Has to be a mystery.” She leaves.

I think I’ll pop out to hunt down some nice lager. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

Hey all, sorry I’ve been quiet; been trying to focus on writing and staying away from social media and news as much as possible. News bums me out (although I feel more hopeful now that Jan 20 is closer), and since hubs is a news junkie and has to have the TV on incessantly, I’ve been struggling a bit. On the bright side, weather’s been nice, so I’ve been walking. It’s great! Don’t knock the power of a good walk outside, preferably in the embrace of nature.

Happy Writing!


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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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Hitting the final stretch #nanowrimo #amwriting

It’s quiet in my writer’s office.

Too quiet.

Lights are on, so she must be here. I close the back door to the office and hang up my flannel jacket. From this vantage I can’t see the recliners, but I suspect she’s tucked away in one of them. I have to say, she’s been doing quite well during NaNo.

The trick will be keeping it up once November is over.

“I know you’re here.”

I lean against her desk. As I suspected, she’s sitting in one of the recliners, footrest out, laptop on her lap (go figure!). Today she’s wearing a sweatshirt with a silhouette of a dragon filled with bookshelves that makes the surprisingly accurate claim: Easily distracted by dragons and books. The rest of her wardrobe is the usual sweatpants and god-know-how-many-pairs of socks.

“I’m glad to see you working so diligently, love.”

She leans her head back. “I’ll hit my fifty thousand words, which is good. The worst part is knowing I won’t be done with the story by the end of the month.”

“When has that ever stopped you?” As soon as I said it, a handful of occasions came to mind. “Don’t answer that.”

“Normally I would just keep going until I got to the end of the story. That’s usually another couple weeks,” she says. “This year I have another book to work on. I need to turn it in by the end of March for my writing certificate.”

“Ah, but do you?” I ask, well aware why her writing teacher gave her a specific deadline. Writers like deadlines. It helps them actually finish a project. At least it helps my writer.

“Yes. I’m going to try, anyway. I told my writing teacher I could do it.”

I know she’ll make sure she has her assignment done to turn in by the end of March. She’s gone through two revisions already, so the next one should be easier in a lot of ways. Plot issues have been ironed out by now.

“What about this project, love?” I ask. “You’ve made a lot of progress. And you learned you can make a go of writing scenes without going from the beginning of the story to the end chronologically.”

“This story works well that way,” she says.

“I’m sure the technique will work for other stories.”

She doesn’t look convinced. “Maybe. It works with the dual timelines because the story isn’t told in one long pass. It switches between the past and the present. I’m not sure how that would work with other stories.”

I cross the office to sit in the other recliner. “Think about it. Besides, what is a story? It’s a series of scenes, right?”

“Yes,” she says, “but there are transitions … Which I have to write anyway no matter what technique I use.”

“Bottom line, love, do what works for you for the story. You know I’m always here to help.”

“Not just to loom and give me dirty looks?”

“Har, har.” Though I haven’t had to “loom” for the past few months. I even packed away my fedora and bullwhip. I haven’t had to go full “Indiana Jones” on her for, wow, a long time. Not that I haven’t come close. Sometimes it works for her, sometimes it doesn’t. I have a grumpy dragon I can call on to help when she gets really stubborn.

“I’m here to inspire and encourage you, love. Now, get back to work.”

She sighs, but gets back to writing.

One more week of NaNo. It’s been a good month, but I think I’m going to have to give E a call. I’ll be ready for a pub crawl when this is over. We’ll go Down Under, though. Their pubs will be open. The ones here in the States will likely be closed by then. Besides, I haven’t been home in a while. It’ll be nice break.

Keep writing!


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NaNo Week 2 –keeping up with quotas #nanowrimo #amwriting

Quotas. I suppose it keeps writers on track toward a particular word count goal, but a total word count has nothing to do with how complete a manuscript is.

“Hey, are you really putting those pictures in my post?” my writer asks from her recliner in the corner of her writing office.

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

“Are you really going to keep writing today, love?”

“Do I get wine and chocolate if I do?”

I narrow my eyes at her. “Do you get wine and chocolate whenever you hit your daily word quota?”

“I get chocolate.”

“You get chocolate anyway because of the pandemic, right?”

“You’re such a spoil-sport. You know what would really be good incentive? The good chocolate. I mean, the really good chocolate, not just the Dove Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel chocolate. And Moon Man.”

Beer over wine? I suppose, considering she doesn’t spring for the good wine unless it’s an occasion, like her book release or three days alone with her writing. “Get to the end first, love.”

“You’re supposed to show me the prize and then tell me to go for it.”

I lean back in the desk chair. She’s got the foot-rest out on the recliner on the other side of the office, fuzzy slippers, sweatpants–not that she wears anything else while working from home, and her NaNoWriMo sweatshirt. Her hair’s gotten longer, and she substitutes herbal tea these days for coffee in the afternoon.

Cute. In a stay-at-home-while-writing kind of way.

“Admit it. I’m adorable.”

I stare at her until she raises an eyebrow and focuses on her laptop again. I won’t admit it.

Not to her, anyway. She’d bring that up as often as possible, especially when she’s struggling to write, as if it would distract me.

. . . . . . . .

Where was I? Oh, yes, my writer and NaNo. I have to admit I’m impressed with her dedication. She has been hitting the daily quota, but not her quota. Good enough, I guess, though I know she can do better. Has done better in the past.

Now, if she can finish most of the story in the next two weeks, it would be a major accomplishment.

“Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence,” she quips from across the office. “Nice to know my Muse is such a wellspring of reassurance.”

“You know I’m right, love. How many times in the past 15 years with over 15 NaNo sessions, both November and other times, have you actually gotten to the end of the story in 30 days?”

She frowns at me. “Twice. Maybe. But I usually finish two weeks after NaNo ends.”

True enough. “Back to writing, love. I’ll see what I can do about your lager.”

“Make sure you wear a mask, even if you can’t get COVID. At least don’t bring it back to me.”