Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Gardens, retreats, and updates–oh my!

I add the new publishers from the second round of submissions to my list on the whiteboard in my writing office. I sense my Muse behind me, his energy radiating into me like a heater gone all psychic-creative vibes in place of warmth.

He settles beside me, his arm a solid line along my own. “What’s the tally, love?”

I add a footnote below the list and mark two entries with an asterisk. “Six passes, five radio-silent but could still be interested, and seven active.”

“What about these two?” He points to the marked entries.

“Those are ones who asked for the revised manuscript when my agent nudged them and offered it. So, crossing my fingers they’re still interested.”

“Hrrumph.” He rocks on his heels. “What does your agent think?”

“She thinks my latest revisions are good, and that might be the clincher.” Hoping. Searching for that damn leprechaun who’s supposed to grant wishes … wait, no, that’s a genie.

“So,” he slings an arm around my shoulders, “writing retreat to your dad’s this weekend.”

“And next weekend.”

He nods. “Does that mean you are going to stop procrastinating on that second draft you keep promising to work on?” His arm tightens around my shoulders.

Almost like a warning.

“Yes, after I get my promotional plan and three-to-five page synopsis done for my manuscript. One of the publishers my agent submitted to is asking for them.” I know he’s aware of that. I suspect he wants to remind me I’ve been dragging my feet and he’s done watching me do it.

Gulp.

“It’ll be a dreary weekend, and you’ll have all day Saturday to work. On writing,” he adds, an edge to his baritone voice. “Right, love?”

“That’s the point of going to my dad’s while he’s away. No distractions.”

“Uh-huh.” He squeezes my collarbone. Hard. “Just remember that.”

Er, o-kay. At least I managed to get the garden planted before the cool, rainy week set in. Needless to say, it’s been too wet to do much outside, although when I checked the garden last night between rainshowers my onions were still looking good. Whew! Those are the ones I worry about the most, because they’re just tender seedings about 5 inches high and about as thick around as the wire from a coat hangar. Once they’re strong enough to stand up, I can stop worrying about them.

No pics this week since it’s been so icky outside and the garden looks way too forlorn. I imagine by the time the rain finally stops and it dries out enough to work in the garden that the weeds will have a decent head start. Sigh.

Hey, since I’ve got you here, anyone know of any good blogs aimed at middle-grade readers or writers? One of my writing sisters is looking for opportunities to guest; her next middle-grade book is coming out this summer.

Enjoy your weekend–stay warm, stay dry, and WRITE!


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Of Revisions and Muses

The writing office is empty.

Bloody hell. Now where’d she go? I hate this time of year. She’s too distracted by Spring–and yes, I capitalize it because it’s becoming a pain in my ass, just like my writer these days. On the whiteboard wall, I see nothing’s changed. Stands to reason since her agent returned from vacation a couple days ago.

What the … Her laptop is on her desk along with this:

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Seriously? I’ve put too much time into my author; there’s no room for another Muse.

A whoosh carries through the open back door of the office, like a giant swinging a huge bloody flyswatter. Before I get to the door, Julie steps through and combs fingers through her hair.

I lean back against her desk, arms crossed. “Where the hell have you been, love?”

An iridescent green head pokes into the office through the door behind her, red eyes locked onto me. I’ve got to deal with her Night Fury conscience; I don’t have fecking time for a whatever-the-hell kind of dragon this is. “Where did that come from? I’m not playing ‘lead muse’ to a team. I work alone.”

Julie runs a hand over its golden nose and nudges it back out the door. “Don’t worry about him,” she tells it. “He’s kinda grumpy.”

The dragon glares at me. I return the favor and add a little bit of Muse temper. It snorts and disappears back out the door. She takes over the glare, hands on her hips.

“What the hell was that for? So I took a break.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“My daughter gave it to me. It’s the first thing she’s ever brought home and said she bought especially for me, and she’s almost 17. What the hell are you so pissy about? I’ve been working on my outline.”

Uh-huh. If that’s work, I’m going to have to get the big guns out. “And what did your sister-in-law say about the manuscript?” I ask, knowing full well what her feedback was. I just want to see if Julie’s been thinking about it instead of goofing off on the competition.

Her eyes narrow. “You’re jealous.” A smile inches across her face, deeping the dimple in her cheek. “You know, you seem a little insecure for a Muse. That’s so cute.”

I ignore the heat in my cheeks and give her my sternest Muse look. “I’ve worked with you for how many years? I’m not going anywhere.” Unless she replaces me. Naw, she wouldn’t do that. Would she?

She crosses the office and pats my shoulder. “Don’t worry. That one is more suited to my fantasy stuff, and I’m writing mystery right now. And stop writing my blog posts for me.”

“If you were in here doing it, I wouldn’t have to.”

She sticks her tongue out at me. *Thhppptt* She brushes past me and settles in at her desk. “Go away until I’m done with this. I need your help with one spot my sister-in-law mentioned in the manuscript.”

“Fine. I’ll be back in an hour. I’ve got to take a walk.” I think the forest path should do it. “One hour.”

I wave. “See you in an hour. Don’t get lost.” Geez. Who knew he’d be jealous?

Anyway, now that he’s gone for a bit, I’ll finish this off. My sister-in-law finished her read-through, and loved the book. Said she’s going to read it again, in fact. Now, before you get the idea that because she’s family she’ll gush over the manuscript, I want to say there’s a reason I asked her. She’s a retired elementary school teacher and was a librarian. She knows books. She reads books. And she’s not a blood relative 🙂 . She reads John Sandford (MN author), William Kent Kreuger (MN author), and Kathy Reichs.

She loved the book, yet had a few things she noticed. One (and remember my earlier post on the subject) thing: she wanted more technical details.

Yeah. The very thing my agent has been telling me to dial back because that’s probably tripping up the editors.

Why, you ask? She was married to a pilot, so she knows the airport (my book is set at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport), and the main character being an aircraft mechanic is interesting to her. And she loves the TMTI (my opinion) that Kathy Reichs has in her books.

She had some other very good suggestions, and she mentioned some of the things she really liked. And she specifically said: “This is going to be a series, right? Because it has to be a series.”

😀 Talk about warm fuzzies!

Anyway, the revision is due to my agent on Monday, so I’m looking at the things my SIL suggested. There’s one in particular I think I’ll focus on that’ll have a bigger effect on the story than some of the others.

And for those who missed flower pics last time (I don’t grow flowers intentionally unless it’s to use up seed in the garden, because weeding 🙂 ), here you go:

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yellow violet

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purple violet

And, of course I have to close with Zoey, who refused to stand still or look at me when I took her picture.

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Have a great weekend, all! Next weekend I might have to get the garden started 🙂


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Stalled … or stalling?

Spring. There’s nothing quite like it. I stand outside my writing office on the patio and suck in a deep breath. I smell the green of new grass, of fresh leaves, of promise that winter is behind us.

Yeah. Right. Snow is predicted tomorrow night. Not much, mind you, and a good dose of rain to go with it, but still. It has the effect of dampening the excitement of spring.

“What the bloody hell are you doing, love?”

The edge in my Muse’s voice makes me wince. Consequently, I’m very careful not to turn around.

“Enjoying the fresh air. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. And snow. This week was icky anyway. Figured I needed to absorb the sun while it’s here.”

I sense him behind me. He’s radiating not anger, but something like agitation. “You aren’t writing.”

I know. The grass practically glows emerald in the sunlight. It never seems this green any other time of the year. The leaves on the trees have a lighter tone, like the newborn leaves are acclimating to being out in the open. Their green is light and delicate. Once the trees are fully dressed, the leaves darken just a bit, like they’re hardening for months of exposure.

“Why aren’t you writing?”

“It’s spring. It only happens once a year.” The spring weather here in MN can swing from low seventies to the low thirties, hence the snow we had just a couple days ago. Granted, snow doesn’t stick around long at this point, but after a week of gorgeous weather, it sure puts a damper on things.

“It’ll be spring for a few more weeks. Sit your ass in the chair and get to work.”

He’s standing close enough for me to feel his heat on the back of my neck. I turn. He’s inside my personal space, and doesn’t back up. His fiery blue eyes cut into mine, and a small shiver of fight-or-flight trickles down my spine. “Back. Off.”

“No. You’ve let your WIP sit for a month.” He waves a finger in my face. “You’ve worked the storyline through and made changes–improvements. Now you need to put those changes in place.”

“Look, tomorrow is supposed to be crappy again. I’m taking my daughter shopping this afternoon. I’ll work on it tomorrow.”

His eyes narrow. “Bullshit. You’re going to do what you’ve been doing for the last month. Not writing.”

I have to look away. Naturally the next thing I notice is his Indiana Jones get-up. Brown pants, tan shirt, and a fedora. A bullwhip is coiled on his belt.

And he’s been so nice lately.

“I need to work through the final scenes before I start the second draft. I’ve got good changes figured out. I just need a little more time. Besides, my readers are supposed to get back to me this week. My agent is back on Wednesday, and I told her I’d have the revisions done by next week.”

He crosses his arms on his broad chest. “I’m going to start riding your ass on this. You need to stop procrastinating. You know you need to have at least the third draft done before your writing sisters reunion. You’re not going to make it unless you dig in now.”

Sigh. “I know.”

Before I head back to the grindstone, I figured you guys might want a couple updates. And pics. Okay, they’re one in the same.

First, the asparagus. I think I’ll be picking it later today. It’s been cool, so it doesn’t grow much, but doggone it, I can’t wait.

asparagus

Then, of course, an update on the chicks. I’m telling you, they’re kinda homely.

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They freak out whenever we open the top on the box. And they’re getting to the point where we’ll need to move them outside. Not until after this next cold snap, though. My son’s done with school this coming week, so I think we’ll task him with setting up the nursery coop.

I saw a nice bed of tulips blooming yesterday and realized how much the color does to the landscape after months of brown and gray. I can’t wait until the irises and lilacs bloom.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends!


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Painting the Idea Wall

One wall of my writing office is covered with a smooth, glossy surface, currently home to a Rorschach test of various colors. An indigo splotch is running down over a yellow stain to meet a red splat.

I stare at the chaos. There’s an idea I can keep. But that orange one over there is a dead end, I think.

“You know, love, you’d have better luck if you focused more.” My Muse closes the door behind him with a quiet snick.

Of course, he’s right. I drop the powder blue goop in my hand into the bucket of discarded ideas at my feet. It lands with a satisfying bloop. “It’s spring.” ‘Nuff said. The grass is getting green, my tomato plants are outgrowing the nursery “pots” I started them in, and it’s just plain nice outside, at least for the weekend. Sunny and seasonal.

I turn to see my Muse staring at the whiteboard. He’s tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, drawing my attention to his admirable backside. “No news this week?” he asks as he half-turns in my direction. An eyebrow arches. “What?”

Er, ahem. I hope my face isn’t as red as it feels. “Nothing.” I move up beside him. “My agent is on vacation for the next two weeks. Besides, I’m waiting for my readers to send me feedback.”

He crosses his arms on his chest and scans the multi-colored wall. “This looks good.” He points to a somewhat coordinated section of wall. “You can use this.”

“I know. I just need to refine it. I think it’ll jack the danger for my main characters if I go this direction. I just don’t know if I should keep this or not.” The area I indicate is a nice pattern, but I’m not sure if it’ll help the plot.

“It’s only the second draft, love. See how it works.” He settles into one of the recliners facing the wall, examining it like an art appraiser. He scoops a glob from the idea bucket and juggles it in his hand. “What if the drug lord grew up there? What if she knows the chief? Or the victim?” He flings the glob.

It lands with a splat beside the indigo. He picks up another handful. “That way no one would suspect her of doing her illegal business in town.”

Hmm. I draw my finger through the fresh goop and smear it across the indigo. “Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“You need to do more than just think about it, love.” He chucks a bright fuschia blob. It lands with a squish, then rolls down the wall in a thick, slime-like mass, leaving pink in its wake.  “You need to work through this plot sooner rather than later. The more you can get done sooner, the farther along you’ll be once you need it.”

And he’s right, of course. I drop into the other recliner. It’s coming together. I realized the other day how I can up the tension and conflict. Sort of.

While these ideas ferment, I’ll leave you with a few pics (because I know someone is expecting them–you know who you are 🙂 )

Remember those fuzzy chicks? They’re not so fuzzy anymore. They’ve got real feathers now. And they’re starting to hop-flap, so we need to be careful when we feed them.

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And one of my favorite parts of spring is finally here! I can’t wait until they’re big enough to pick. Can you see the asparagus spears just coming up?

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And I’d hate to leave you without a cat pic, because, you know. Some days I wish I was a cat. All I’d have to do is sleep all day long 😀

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Enjoy your weekend!


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Update and a little break

No foolin’ today. I’ve got plans. Sure, they’re plans I’d like to put off, but there is a benefit to inviting one’s relatives over for a family gathering. You can only procrastinate so long before you absolutely have to get things done, like cleaning, organizing, catching up on reading–wait, scratch that last one. Won’t have much time to read this weekend after I get the other stuff done. Ugh.

Today’s supposed to be a wonderful spring day, so I’ve got washing windows and cleaning the refrigerator on my list, along with all the incidentals like vacuuming and organizing. I’m a lot farther behind this year than I usually am because of my self-imposed NaNo from last month.

Which, by the way, I managed to complete by the 30th–woo-hoo! The story isn’t done, and I won’t finish it because the plot needs a serious overhaul. I’ll look at that later, after the whole family gathering thing.

Now to the white board in my writing office. The list of publishers reminds me of how far I’ve come on this writing journey of mine. I got an update from my agent yesterday. Five more publishers haven’t indicated much interest, but they haven’t specifically passed. I put question marks behind those.

“Your agent said they could still show interest, love. It just might take a little longer.” My Muse stands beside me, shoulder to shoulder–er, make that my shoulder to his arm. He’s got a height advantage on me. Today he’s wearing painters pants (yes, like those painters pants, complete with a few paint stains, though I’m not sure what he’d paint that particular shade of orange, or purple) and a faded red t-shirt that might’ve shrunk a bit. Not that I’m complaining…

I pointed to the four remaining publishers who still appear interested. “We’re hoping to hear back from these, but she’s going to call next week to talk about possible tweaks to the story based on what little feedback we’ve gotten.”

Most of the feedback we’ve gotten from some of the publishers who’ve passed is just as helpful–or not–as feedback I’ve gotten from agent query rejections. And it’s all over the board. One likes this, but really doesn’t think that works for them. Two others really like that, but have different opinions about the rest.

“How do you plan to tweak things?” My Muse picks up a marker and starts a list off to the side. “One didn’t like this so much, but two others loved it. One didn’t like the pacing, but all the other feedback you’ve gotten indicates the pacing is good.” He makes a check. “There’s the usual ‘just didn’t connect with it’. And one mentioned voice.”

The dreaded ambiguity of “voice”. What is voice, anyway? I’ll have to do some reading on that, I think. Anyone have any suggestions for a good reference on voice? I’ll also look at Janice Hardy’s blog–she’s got a great one for writers called Fiction University. I’m sure there’s at least one post on voice.

He gives me a sideways glance. “Remember, it’s all subjective.”

“I know. I’m going to try to read through my manuscript with the vague feedback in mind before I talk to my agent. Try to come up with ideas for tweaks before she submits to more publishers.”

I’m not sure what kind of tweaks. The main character in the book is a female aircraft mechanic, so there is some–not much–technical stuff. A lot less technical stuff than there was in the earlier drafts. Maybe trimming even more of that. Which I’m reluctant to do because, I suppose, I feel like it gives her more validity, but if that’s hanging people up, then I’ll work with it.

So, I’ll be busy this weekend. Maybe I’ll have to do a post on voice next week. Wait, no. Family gathering next week. Maybe I’ll cheat and just post cat pics.

Like anyone would complain about that 😀

Have a great weekend and keep on writing!


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Writing and waiting

Today I use a green dry-erase marker for my writing office whiteboard. You know, for St. Patrick’s Day (even though St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish to start with). Three more publishers off the list as passes, but I add a new one to the bottom. The editor reached out to my agent, so of course she pitched my manuscript, and the editor asked to see it.

Yay! I mean, anytime another editor gets eyes on it is another chance an editor will love it, right?

My Muse arrives in full regalia: well-worn (in every sense of the word) jeans, tennis shoes, a bright green Guinness t-shirt, and a green hat with the requisite “Kiss me, I’m Irish” motto in shiny gold letters. I’m almost surprised he didn’t do a temporary dye job and go red- or green-haired for the day. Almost.

He hands me a mug of steaming coffee. “With Irish Creme, doncha know,” he says with a grin and a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent. “It’s too early fer green beer, but I’ll bring that along later.”

I feel my eyes narrow and a wince escape my control. “Dude, you’re Australian. You’re not even very good at American accents. Gonna have to work on your Irish accent.”

He sips his own coffee with a loud slurp. “So you say.”

“Seriously. When have you ever had to do an American accent? I mean, outside of a Southern accent, and you slip with that. I can’t think of one project, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of them.”

“You’re going to blow my cover, love.”

“Phhfftt. Like anyone’s going to know.” I sip the coffee, and suck in air. Woof. Cough. “Holy crap. Just how much Irish Creme did you put in here?”

“Enough. I added a little Jameson to even it out.” He takes another horrendously loud slurp and evaluates the board. “Three more passes.” He points to the new addition. “How does this one look?”

“They’re an independent. They’ve got a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and such on their list.” I wander to the window and look out.

A path covered with bark mulch wends into the woods. A white guidepost stands at the end just outside the office. Another appears beside the path around the first bend. Beyond it, fog hangs thick, obscuring the path and the next guidepost.

My Muse stands next to me. I notice now the rainbow and pot o’ gold motif on the mugs. “What’s up with that?” he asks, lifting his mug to point.

I brace myself for another sip of altered coffee and wonder if the caffeine will counter the Jameson. “My new draft.” I sidestep until I can see a guidepost beyond the fog bank. “I kinda know where I’m going, but I’m not sure how to get there. I’m missing a lot of stuff I’ll have to go back and add. I’m still a day behind in my word count because of it.”

“Or are you behind because you missed another day this week?” At my questioning look, he raises an eyebrow. “I’m watching you, love. Are you going to make your NaNo?”

“Yes, I’ll catch up. I’m taking Monday off from the day job.”

He tsks. “And how much writing do you suppose you’ll put in tomorrow? You’re going to be ‘out’ all day.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s a writers festival.” A local one I’ve never heard of before. Apparently the group has been doing an annual gig in Bloomington. This is their first year in Rosemount. I found out about it through the local Sisters In Crime newsletter. “It’s not downtown Minneapolis or downtown St. Paul. It’s for writing. Not a substitute for the super-awesome UW Writers’ Institute in Madison, but it’s something.”

“Then you’ll have to buckle down, love. You’re going to miss your mark otherwise.”

Yep, I know. And I still haven’t started getting ready for the family Easter gathering. Sigh. I need to start getting the house cleaned (ugh) and organized (double-ugh), since we’re celebrating the weekend before Easter.

The publisher news is disappointing, but I expected to get passes. And there’s still nine publishers who haven’t reported in, including the new one. There’s still opportunity. I haven’t talked to my agent about what happens if none of the publishers like the manuscript. I expect she’ll pick another bunch of publishers to try. The feedback we’re getting is more “we like this part a lot, but this part doesn’t resonate with us” than “thanks but no thanks”. The brief critiques aren’t particularly useful, but it’s nice to know why they passed, and what they liked. It’s kind of interesting when one passes because of something they didn’t think worked for them but others really liked.

So, off to a writing thing tomorrow, then hammer away at the draft. Have a Happy St. Pat’s Day for those who celebrate. Also, Happy Vernal Equinox a few days early 🙂

Write on!

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Don’t wake me until the weekend!


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The waiting game

I add the last entry to the list on the white board in my writing office and fail to suppress the urge to squeal like a teenager. I won’t admit to the happy dance, though.

Another step closer.

My Muse appears bearing gifts: a bag of tasty Ghirardelli chocolates and a six-pack of Moon Man beer. The best part: he’s wearing that burgundy henley. A worthy distraction.

“Congrats, love.” He sets the beer and chocolate on my desk and gestures at the board. “How many?”

“Thirteen.” It’s still sinking in. My agent got my manuscript into the hands of editors at thirteen publishers. And she said so far she’s gotten positive responses. That is, they’re looking forward to reading it.

He scans the list. “Looks like a nice selection.”

“Are you kidding? These are great.” It’s still sinking in. The whole “I really have an agent” to “Oh. My. Gawd. My manuscript is actually on an editor’s desk at that publisher.”

He loops an arm around my shoulders. “You’re doing great, love. Now, why haven’t you finished the outline for the next book?”

He smells like spring, that fresh, green scent of promise and sunshine and rain, that scent that makes you want to breathe it all in that first day the grass turns bright green and the sun glows against a brilliant blue sky. “Can’t focus.”

“Bullshit. You’re not trying hard enough, love, and you know it.”

Silence. I’m not even trying to think of a response because I know he’s right. I’m at the brainstorming stage of my next book. I sort of know what the story will be, but free-writing through the outline a few times will help me cement the major plot points.

“I’ll get it done. I have to have it done by the end of the month so I can do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo in March.” Besides, the weather for the next week or so is supposed to be spring-like, as in March temps in February here in MN. Lots of opportunity to go for walks to help me think through the plot lines.

“I’m going to hold you to that.” His Indiana Jones fedora appears on his head. “You need to get to work.”

So now it’s a waiting game. My agent will keep me updated on responses, but I know it’s just like when an agent asks for a full when you’re querying agents. It takes a little while for that person to get to your manuscript’s spot in their TBR queue. I expect it’ll be a few weeks before we hear back from any of them.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on the outline for the next book, and planning my garden. I’ll have to start seeds in a few weeks. This year will be a canning tomato year, and hopefully my peppers will do better than they did last year (last year was a bad year for my peppers). Maybe I’ll do garbanzo beans this year. I always like to plant something new or something I haven’t planted for a while.

Here’s your awwww to start off the weekend:

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Socks and Zoey napping

Pulled from the archives. Even though Zoey would chase Socks and (since she was bigger) often wrestle with her, sometimes they’d cuddle.

Have a great weekend, all! Get writing!