Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Revise and return of the Muse #amrevising #amediting #MNwinter

I’m sitting in my writing office, my butt in a nice comfy recliner, laptop on my, well, lap. My mouse pointer hovers over the Word document my agent returned to me: Book 2 with her notes.

“G’day, love.”

“Thanks for scaring the shit outta me–not.” I try to slow my pulse. “You couldn’t use the door like usual?”

My Muse leans against the wall separating the alcove from the aforementioned door, arms crossed over his broad chest. He’s wearing wild tie-dyed sweatpants, a baja beach hoodie, and Birkenstocks–with no socks. His skin is burnished, his short blond hair sun-bleached at the edges. His slow smile deepens his dimples. “It’s cold outside.” He lifts a foot. “Forgot my boots.”

“Forgot your boots, my ass. I hope you enjoyed your walkabout in summery Aussie land, cuz it’s supposed to get nice and cold here.”

He chuckles, a deep rolling sound that makes the room feel warmer. Or maybe it’s just me. He grabs a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and settles into the recliner beside me. He smells like the beach, like sun and sand and coconut and ocean. “I did.”

“And I bet you thought about me exactly never.”

He chuckles again. Yep, pretty sure the room’s getting warmer. “Of course I thought about you, love.”

“Oh really? I have a hard time believing you were thinking about anything besides enjoying the sun and surf.”

“You got feedback from your agent on Book 2.”

“Well, if you know that, then you know I have yet another round of revision to do.” Yep, still not quite there. Pacing in the middle. The novelist’s bane.

“You make it sound like the book’s on it’s way into that drawer from which no manuscripts escape.”

“I know it’s not that bad. It just needs some tweaking. And less PDA. And less ho-hum. And more Bullitt car chases.”

“I’m going to have to stop you with that last one, love. No car chases in Book 2. And you already took out most of the PDA. Which is disappointing.”

“Right?”

“But I can see her point.”

“Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side with this.”

He sighs. “I am. But this is your ‘break away from your current publisher’ book, so your agent is right, and you know it.”

My turn to sigh. “I do. But I don’t know how I can step up the pacing in the middle without pulling more words. It’s already down to 81,000 words, which is 10,000 less that Book 1. And there’s the scene of the accident that isn’t. Without that … How do I keep up the tension? That’s part of the ramp-up to the climax.”

My Muse raises a brow. “You’ve already started working on a replacement for that scene.”

Grumble. “Yes, sort of. The replacement doesn’t address my agent’s concern, though. That that particular scene might be one too many for the purpose. My replacement scene would do the same thing, just be more, um …”

“Believable?”

I can’t stop an eye roll. “Fine, yes.”

“So, when are you planning on looking at all her comments?”

I hover the mouse pointer over the file. “This weekend. I have homework to do, though. Pulling that neck muscle a few days ago didn’t help, either. I lost two days of work.”

“Yeah, that can be a pain in the neck.”

I give him my best side-eye. “Really? That’s the best you can do?”

He chuckles. “Do you have a deadline for your homework? You know, that really isn’t homework.”

“It is. I need to do it to finish my credit by exam.” I’m starting to think it would have been easier to take the class. Then again, a couple hundred dollars for 4 credits is way better than $1400 and four months of night classes for those same 4 credits. Unless the professor decides my credit for exam submissions aren’t good enough and I’ll have to take the class anyway. That’s the risk, despite the fact I have over a decade of experience to back up my credit by exam request.

“And when do you plan on reading the rest of your agent’s feedback? You talk to her on Tuesday.”

“I know. I’ll read her feedback before then.” And I’ll have to formulate some sort of response or fix for each of her concerns. Some will be easy–less PDA. Some, not so much.

“Don’t worry, love. We’ll figure it out. If nothing else, there’s always a Bullitt car chase.”

And that’s my plan for the weekend. Considering we’ve got arctic air sitting over us for the next week or so, keeping us far below freezing, I’m pretty sure I’ll get it done. Or, mostly done.

Happy Writing, and stay warm!

Kitty throwback: Nyx napping


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Timelines, Plotlines, and Muses–oh my! #amediting

Have you ever worked on a book for … ah, years, and then, after you learn more about the craft, gone back to that book and read it? That book that you spent months–years–editing and revising and editing some more, and querying, and editing some more … Yeah, that one.

And after tucking it away for a couple years, you go back and read it, and realize that the elements of the story are all there, but the order of events needs to be shuffled. That timeline you hammered on for years needs to be blown up. Well, okay, just the whole freaking middle of the book, but still. I’ve got things pretty much rearranged, but then there’s the tweaks to the plotline.

Slam!

The water in my glass on the little end table beside my recliner ripples.

“Seriously?” I call out. “You don’t have to slam the door.”

I hear the rustling of a coat and a pair of thuds before my Muse comes around the wall separating the alcove from the outside door of my writing office. He’s wearing a purple Minnesota Vikings hoodie and black sweatpants, with thick purple socks to round out his outfit. He presses his lips together, lines creasing his forehead, hands planted on his hips.

Um … “What’s with the door slamming?”

He shakes his head before pulling a beer out of the mini-fridge and dropping into the recliner beside me with a sigh. “It’s fecking cold outside and windy.”

“Dude, it’s January in Minnesota. You’re lucky it isn’t below zero.” Actually, we did “enjoy” below zero weather before Christmas. Nothing like Mother Nature reminding us that yes, it really is winter. Like the foot and a half of snow we’ve gotten since November wasn’t enough of a reminder. “I take it you didn’t go ‘Down Under’ over the holidays.” I mean, it’s not like he has to fly on planes or anything. I think it’s like a wormhole.

He swallows some beer. “We call them ‘portals’.”

“Okay. What’s got your undies in a twist?”

He raises a brow. “How many times do you plan on going through that timeline, love, before you settle on the scene order and just write the transitions as you need them?”

“Until I’ve got all the pieces where they should be. I’ve got most of the scenes reorganized. I just need to add a few short scenes, and at least one more vignette.” I’ve got a couple spots I’m still struggling with. How many times should my MCs talk to a supporting character? I’m debating combing two of the scenes. And there are still a couple scenes I’m wondering if I should toss because they are character-development scenes, not necessarily part of the investigation.

“Do you suppose if you do remove those scenes that you could work the character development into other scenes?”

“Probably.”

He leans back in the recliner. “You’ve been over this book how many times, love?” He holds up a hand before I can answer. “I think you did the right thing by reorganizing it.”

“You suggested it.”

“Technically I inspired you to reorganize it. And I think it’s a good thing.”

“I hear a ‘but’ coming.”

He pegs me with those intense blue eyes of his. “But you have got to get this project done so you can start on Book 3.”

“I know. My agent hasn’t gotten back to me about Book 2.”

“But when she does, you should start getting the plot together for Book 3.”

“I’m well aware. You’re not planning on going on walkabout, are you?”

He says nothing for a moment. “Tell you what. I’ll be back in a couple days. I need some sun and heat.”

Well, it is the middle of summer in Australia. “I get that. I’ll manage. I’ve got my book dragon.”

“I want you to have this project ready to send to your critique group by the end of the month, love.”

“That’s the plan.”

I’ve got some time; I’m thinking my agent might get back to me on Book 2 by the middle of next month or so. I definitely want to have this project ready for critiquing before then.

Oh, and bonus fun I just learned about today. My son’s girlfriend’s family invited him to go with them on their annual trip to Texas at the end of March. It’ll be a 10-day trip (I think), and they need a cat sitter. Yippee! Since I’m a fully-remote worker, I can work from their apartment. I might have to split cat duties with my daughter, but hey, four cats–at least one cuddly one–is better than one cat who doesn’t sit on laps anymore. So, work during the day, cuddle cats and try to write at night. I’m up for that 🙂

Happy Writing!

PS: I’m having some trouble with lag on WordPress when I write posts. Any suggestions?


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Musing NaNo and Beyond #nano2022 #amrevising

I flip out the footrest in one of the recliners in my writing office alcove and open Scrivener to Book 2. It’s gonna take a minute to remind myself where I left off way back at the beginning of November. Oh yeah, that’s right.

The outside door of my office opens with a subdued squeak. A cold draft makes its way around the partition and zeros in on my three-layered stocking feet. My toes remind me they aren’t convinced three pairs of wool-blend socks are enough. A crinkle of a coat and the subdued thuds of a pair of boots herald the appearance of my Muse.

“Well, look at you, love. All back to writing and everything.” He pulls a bottle of water out of the mini-fridge and drops into the recliner beside me. He’s wearing his thick fisherman’s sweater and black sweatpants, and smells like a cozy real-wood fireplace. “Someone might think you’re a real writer.”

“Ha ha, very funny. I gave you a couple days off while I played with that plotting program.”

“And?”

“It has potential. I have to train myself to use it. I have a 30-day trial, so I can practice with it.” In fact, I started to put my NaNo project into it, since I was having a tough time with the plot. It’s like using index cards, kind of. Scrivener has a similar functionality, but this other program, Plottr, is better in the sense that it’s easier to see different pieces of the story because it’s color-coded. And you can stack “cards” but still see them all. I’ve used index cards in the past, which works, but you need a bit of room (lots of room) to lay everything out.

“It’d be nicer if I worked at an actual desk with an actual second monitor. Then I’d be able to see the plotting screen and Scrivener at the same time.”

My Muse leans back and extends the footrest on his recliner. “Nothing’s stopping you. You’ve already got two monitors set up.”

“That’s for work. I don’t want to use the same space for technical writing and fiction writing.”

“Well, I guess that means you need to work on your son’s bedroom that he isn’t using anymore.”

Uh-huh. The project I’ve been planning to do for the past, let’s see, how many years? “It doesn’t help that my daughter’s overflow is now in that room.”

“Just your daughter’s overflow?”

“Don’t get me started.” My hubs has a tendancy to be a saver of perfectly good or servicable stuff (read: furniture from family members who downsized) that we might need someday. Like during the zombie apocolypse.

He chuckles. “You missed an opportunity when he went out to California.”

“I was on my personal writing retreat. Besides, you don’t have to live with him.” And he doesn’t have to endure the bad mojo that I would when hubs finds out I got rid of his “treasures”. Then there’s all that time I’d have to spend on decluttering when I should be writing. It is on my list, though. Hubs already declared we’re going to host Easter (for the first time since 2018). That will be interesting, because our boomerang daughter won’t be able to move out by then, and all her stuff from school, including her desk, chair, and various storage bin systems are still “stored” in the space where we set up the dining table.

“In any case, I’m back to Book 2, so you’re sticking around, right?”

He pushes the arms of the recliner until the back tilts back. “I’m here for you, love. However, you have to keep up your ‘writing every day’ habit. That’s the deal.”

“That was the whole point of doing NaNo.” I can feel another self-imposed NaNo session on the horizon for Book 3, once I get that story figured out. Maybe I should work with Plottr on that one. Eh, maybe just one practice project at a time for that.

“Good. Now, where were we in Book 2?”

Yes, I finished NaNo with a successful add of 50k words to my project. Granted, a lot of those words were “stream of consciousness” writing to work things out, but that was good. I found a couple things I need to adjust, and actually finished the historical timeline scenes. It’s the modern timeline I’m struggling with. I’ll get there, but I’ve got a couple other projects to work on first.

Have a wonderful writing week!

Throwback – Kitten Nyx cozy napping


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Musing some help? #amrevising

Out my window my first morning at the Shire

When I open the curtains, I swear. I knew the weather wonks had mentioned snow showers up north, but I’d hoped they were wrong.

Nope, they were right. My first morning at my long-awaited writing retreat, and it snowed. At least I’m not planning to go anywhere today. Tomorrow is another story; I’ve got a panel tomorrow morning about 1 1/2 hrs away. An interruption in my gloriously quiet four days of solitude.

Oh well. I fire up the coffee maker and brew up a pot of Caribou Coffee, a nice change from the store-brand coffee we have at home (yes, store-brand–no coffee snobs in our house, just frugal). Then I settle in with my laptop for a day of revision.

*Knock, knock*

What the hell? I did not just hear that knock.

*Knock, knock*

“G’morning, love. Oi, open the door.”

Ahem, that’s weird. He only uses doors because I told him that whole popping in thing is just showing off.

Not like that’s ever stopped him.

“This better be good,” I shout back at him as I head to the door.

And stop.

Seriously?

My Muse is standing on the other side of the door, MN Vikings stocking cap on his head and hands tucked into the pockets of his leather bomber jacket. Beside him are two women, one blond and about my height and age, the other a taller brunette a little older than my son, her coat stretched over her abdomen.

You have got to be kidding. I unlock the door and glare at my Muse. “You were supposed to be here last night when I got in. What the hell are you doing?”

“You’ve heard of having lunch with your characters, right? Here they are. You can have coffee, since it smells like you just made a fresh pot.” He pushes past me. “Come on in, ladies.”

“Dude, there’s no room here.” Heck, there aren’t even enough chairs to go around. The table might seat four with enough chairs, but it’d be tight. Besides, I’m using one of the two existing chairs as a luggage stand.

“No worries, love.” My Muse waves a hand and two more chairs appear at the tiny table. He pulls the stool from under the teeny counter overhang in the kichenette and plants himself on it. “Have a seat, ladies.”

I close the door and plant my hands on the counter in front of my Muse. “What are you …”

“You said your agent told you their characters were still a little flat, so I brought them over.”

I don’t even try to stop my eyeroll. “Not when I’m on my writing retreat. You are supposed to be helping me revise Book 2.”

He shoots me a grin, the divot in his chin deepening. “I am. I think the coffee’s ready.”

Arrrgh. I pour coffee for my characters, and think about making my Muse pour his own damn coffee.

When I set the coffee mug in front of the younger woman, she leans to me and whispers, “He’s your muse?”

“Muse, with a capital ‘M’. Yeah, since high school.”

Her eyes widen. “He is so hot!”

“Connie,” her mother scolds, then grins. “She’s right.”

“Don’t tell him. He’s got enough of an ego the way it is.”

“I believe it. Now, he said you needed to get to know us a little better.”

“Look, Anna, he sometimes does things …”

She pats my hand. “He told us what you need, and we’re here to help. Now, do you want to talk about my Ed? My Ed would have liked you, too.”

Well, since they’re here, I might as well “have coffee” with them. “Actually, tell me how you really would have handled the whole thing.”

Well, a nice change from my last visit to the Shire in the Woods is that they changed internet providers. It’s still a little flaky, but waaay better than it was this spring, hence the blog post 🙂 It’s a little break from my revisions, which I’m determined to finish before I head home on Monday.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


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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!