Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Still behind in the home stretch #nanowrimo #amwriting

Image by Steve Howard from Pixabay

My writer finally comes through the door to her writing office. I have to make a show of checking my non-existant watch. “Where the hell have you been, love?”

She grimaces at me. “I know, I know. I worked at the library two nights this week, and I’ve still been writing every night, so …” She trails off into a grumble.

“Watch your language. You’ve been distracted.”

“Duh!” Julie grabs her laptop and plants herself in one of the recliners in the corner. More grumbling. She’s wearing her NaNoWriMo hoodie, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much.

“Would you like to talk about it, love?”

“I have to write.”

She’s so grumbly I can feel the creative energy being repelled. Sigh. I settle next to her in the other recliner. “Tell me.”

“You already know. Why should I tell you?”

“Because by actually saying it you will feel better. And yes, I can feel the energy shift. When is your daughter supposed to be home?”

“Soon.” She chews on a knuckle. “I didn’t get as much writing done last weekend as I had wanted to. I worked at the library and tried to write. I did write when it was slow, just not enough. I even wrote every day this week, and I still didn’t hit my word count. And I’m not going to get that short story done to submit for the anthology.”

“You could, love. That’s the one with a hard deadline. Your draft doesn’t have a hard deadline.”

She looks over at me, her face flushed. Frustration, I think. “I don’t know how to write it. I’m stuck. You know what? I think I need to write something different. I want to work on the Spring Brook story. Or I could revise my police procedural. Or maybe work on that urban fantasy you keep pinging me with.”

The urban fantasy would be a nice change of pace, but now is not the time. “Tell me what’s distracting you, love.”

She bounces her head back against the recliner. “Everything. Do you realize Thanksgiving is next week already? And my daughter is home this weekend, then coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday two days after she goes back. The energy is,” she rubs at her eyes, “different. Harder to work with. And I have housework to do, even if it is the bare minimum. And I have to get my new computer set up. And damn it, I need to be writing.”

“Yes, you do. So what do you need to do to get there?”

“Stop talking and start writing. Go finish my blog post. Please.”

I try another test. Most of the creative energy is still not sinking in. Bloody hell. “I’ll call Wander in. Maybe she can help.” There’s something about dragons that helps my writer open up.

Not Wander, but close.

“Fine. Whatever. Let me try to hit my word count tonight, alright?” She glances at the clock on the desk and groans.

I lean over to her. “Relax, love.”

“Easy for you to say. Finish the post, then help me with this transition.”

And I expect that’s how the weekend will go. If I can get her to hit double her word goal over the next two days, she’ll be on track to hit 50k by the 30th.

Wish me luck!


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One week in and keeping up so far #nanowrimo #amwriting

It appears that you will have to put up with me writing the post again. I suspect you’ll hear from me every week for the rest of the month.

Hell, I’ll gladly write these posts if it means my writer is actually writing. As I type, Julie is in her recliner in the corner with her laptop on her lap, and headphones on. Hmm. I don’t hear any typing.

I don’t even think her eyes are open.

“Hey, Julie.”

I know she has noise-cancelling headphones, but she should still be able to hear me. *snaps fingers* “Hey, Julie.”

Bloody hell.

She doesn’t even react until I’m standing at the foot of the recliner. I grab her slippered foot.

“Hey!”

Heh. You should have seen her jump.

“What the hell?” she says.

“Were you sleeping, love? I’m not here to watch you sleep.”

She pulls off her headphones. “I wasn’t sleeping. I was thinking.”

“Oh, is that what you call it now?”

She rolls her eyes, then sticks out her tongue. As I expected. I’ve been her Muse too long for much of anything to surprise me.

“Hey, I’ve been writing. I’m keeping up. And I finally hit a spot where I can just write. I’ve been having trouble with the transitions. Which, come to think of it, you could help with. Since you’re my Muse.” She draws out the last in a way that makes me think of a snarky teenager.

“You are fecking lucky I know you so well, love.”

A knock at the door to her writing office interrupts. She sets her computer aside and goes to answer the door.

Sigh. I can feel the energy shift. I suspect my writer’s expected surge of words over the weekend is fading.

Julie closes the door and returns to her recliner. “Just because my daughter is home from school–which, by the way, I wasn’t expecting–doesn’t mean I won’t be able to make my word counts.”

“Remember that, love. And remember you are busy next week, so you have to get ahead in your word count this weekend.”

She grumbles. “Just finish the post already so you can help me concentrate.”

The end of the first week of NaNo. Three more weeks and 40,000 or so more words to go. Lovely. I might have to call in reinforcments. A book dragon, perhaps?


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A-Musing Return

Blue goo drips down the brainstorming wall like a slime creature suffering from narcolepsy. A crimson splat mixes with a yellow blob. I lob another idea at the wall, this one a bright green. It hits and bounces against the wall like a skipping stone across the water until it shatters against a pink and orange swirl. 

That could work. I peer closer. I’m pretty sure that will work. Still following the pattern on the wall, I reach back for another idea.

No bucket. Damn. I know I left it …

“Looking for this, love?”

I swing around so fast I lose my balance and catch myself against the wall. My hand slips across the mosaic of ideas. I flail, scrabbling against the slick wall.

My Muse catches my arm and hauls me upright before I hit the floor, his other hand occupied by my idea bucket. “Still clumsy, I see.”

Steady now, I move to wipe my hands, until I see the mess. Like finger paints, only brighter and a bit more slickery. “Geez. It’s about frickin’ time. Glad you found your way back.” Seriously. I’m glad he found his way back. Grumpy was starting to get on my nerves. For the past two weeks.

He hands me a towel he pulls from his back pocket. The texture is odd, like velour but scratchier. It does the trick, though. While I clean my hands off, I notice his five o’clock shadow has an extra 12 hours on it. He’s wearing a Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt from Surfer’s Paradise, wherever that is, sleeves shoved to his elbows. His wearing-them-well jeans and flip-flops complete the ensemble. Then I notice his blond hair is lighter on top, and his skin has acquired a bronze tint.

“Queensland,” he supplies, even though I know I didn’t ask out loud. “And yes, I did enjoy some sun. It’s summer there, you know.” He scratches at the stubble on his face while he checks out the brainstorming wall. “Progress, I see.”

I finish cleaning off my hands and dangle the towel–now looking like a rainbow vomited on it–toward him. “Some.”

He sets the bucket on the floor and snaps the towel at it like a shower room gotcha. The colors shoot from the towel into the bucket, each hue reclaiming its ball shape as it hits the target.

Damn, he’s good.

“Grumpy said you made NaNo. Congratulations, love.”

“No thanks to that killjoy. You know, he’s worse than you are. I am sooo glad you’re back.” Then I plant hands on my hips. “Don’t do that again.”

His blue eyes sparkle. “You progressed on your WIP and you won NaNo. And you worked some things out.”

I poke his distractingly-solid chest. “No excuse. Isn’t there a rule against wagering time with your writer in a poker game?”

He just grins.

Damn distracting. “Anyway, you heard the news, right?”

He tucks the towel back into his pocket. “Which news? The news where you’ll be starting your term as VP with the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime? Do you have your panel ready for the January meeting? How about the workshop about using Word and track changes?”

I roll my eyes. “No. Well, yes, but no.”

He raises an eyebrow. “The news where you’re getting more visibility at the Writer’s Institute in April? Two presentations, a panel, and two half-hour sessions with other writers. Plus selling your book. You are going to be a busy woman that weekend.”

30th-writers-institute-email

“Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.”

“You should be. You know it’s a great opportunity to get your name out there.”

“I know, I know. It’s on my list. I have to work on my presentations.” Sheesh.

“You got your cover?”

*Grumble* “Not yet. I have seen a draft of the final. Don’t get me started on that.” It’s out of my control. Besides, my agent is looped in on that. She knows what’s going on.

“You’re at the three-month mark.”

“I know. I can’t do anything about it.” Except grumble. “Okay. Here it is. I’ve got an offer for the audiobook version of Murder in Plane Sight.

A smile brightens his face. He wraps his arms around me and gives me a huge bear hug, forcing my face into his shirt. Mmmm, smells like the sea and coconut.

“Congratulations, love!” He releases me. “Well done.”

“I have to give my agent credit. She’s awesome!”

“So, when the book comes out, you’ll have Book 2 ready to go.” It wasn’t a question.

Figures. “I’ve got promo stuff to work on. And I have to revamp my website. And get a newsletter going.”

“Book 2,” he says again, this time adding a scolding finger. “At least you found the plot issues during NaNo.” He rubs his hands together. “Now, about this wall. Needs something over there.”

Sigh.

It’s the last weekend without kids before Christmas break. My plan: writing. Lots of writing.

How about you?


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Newton’s Third Law (for writers)

You remember those, right? Okay, nerd cap on for the refresher of Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  • First law: A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion (or simply, inertia). It’s like not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (body at rest), and then the cat (or dog) jumps on you and insists it’s time for breakfast/walk/pee break (an outside force affecting inertia 😀 ).
  • Second law: An object’s force is mass times acceleration. Think of it as the difference between a terrier running up to greet you and a Great Dane running up to greet you. One of these will be like catching a basketball, the other will body-slam you.
  • Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember those experiments way back in elementary school where the same poles of magnets would repel? Yep, kinda like that.

So, what exactly has this got to do with writing? Well, I was thinking (I know, scary 🙂 ) about characters and reactions.

Earlier this week I subbed at the library, because their high school staff member has basketball practice after school. And because it was after Thanksgiving, it was time to decorate for Christmas. Lexy (the high schooler) set up the tree already, so all I had to do was find stuff to put on the walls, etc.

The decorations are stored in the basement. So the staff member I was relieving led me into the basement to show me where things were. And one of the first things I noticed was this:

If you saw this in your basement, what would be your first reaction? Scream? Find something to hit it with? Or calmly say, “Hey, did you know you have a bat hibernating in the basement?”

Because the little guy wasn’t bothering anyone, and I knew it was sleeping, I picked the third option. (Honestly, bats don’t bother me because I know they eat bugs. Lots of bugs.)

Anyway, that (and every Sunday night’s America’s Funniest Videos episode) made me think about characters and how they react to things. A lot of our everyday activity is based on actions and our reactions to them. A character returns home from errands and finds the door to her apartment–that she is absolutely certain she locked–is unlocked. A character arrives after a call from a friend frantic about a break-in, and finds said friend on the floor unconscious and bleeding.

For every situation a character will react in a particular way. Does that character freak out when she finds the door unlocked? What about finding the friend? How does she handle the situation? Does she enter the apartment anyway? Does she run off to find help?

Characters should react the way we expect them to. An exterminator will not jump up on a chair when a mouse scurries across the kitchen floor. A firefighter will not run around frantically when they find their garage on fire.

Then again, sometimes it works to have a character react in an unexpected way. The nurse who retches when a patient vomits. Or, as seen on AFV, the mom who can’t bear to prep a raw turkey without gagging (no, she didn’t throw up, but it sounded like she usually did).

If a character reacts in a way the reader doesn’t expect, there must be a good reason for it. Is the nurse sensitive to odor? (of course, if he is, why on earth be a nurse?) Maybe he is going through chemotherapy and is extra-sensitive to odors. Maybe the mom who can’t stand to touch raw meat had to prep the turkey this year because her sister just got a new job and is working over Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a character react differently than expected. It keeps things interesting, but it also has to fit the character. Case in point: I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and the only female aircraft mechanic where I worked. So one night I’m walking across the hangar and someone calls my name. I look, and this thing is arcing through the air in my direction. So I calmly stand where I’m at and watch a dead mouse hit the floor a few feet away.

I don’t know what my co-worker was expecting me to do, but I think he was disappointed, because I didn’t react the way he expected, i.e. like a girl. Another example is when one of the guys I worked with (same place) reacted to a moth fluttering around in the crew van we took to the gate. Imagine a little kid reacting to a moth–they dance around and swat at it. The next night, someone glued a dead cecropia moth to the top of his toolbox. Moral of the story: don’t let your fellow mechanics know you’re afraid of moths.

Make sure your characters react to situations in a way that fits their personality. If they react otherwise, give them a reason to do so. In case you were wondering about the bat, someone came the next day and removed it. And I found out that was the third bat they had found in the basement. Methinks a bat house might be a nice alternative.

And I made it for NaNo! Of course, I didn’t finish the story, but I’m a lot closer to the end than I was before. This weekend is forecast to be snowing and blowing, so I have a great excuse to hunker down and write.

Have a great weekend!

zoey asleep


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Slow start

If you’re looking for Julie, I sent her on a walkabout. A long one, on the forest trail. With any luck she’ll snag some inspiration. A Muse can only do so much. Lead a horse to water and all that.

I tried to send her on a week-long walkabout, but she won’t listen to me. She’s got this damn fixation on doing a NaNoWriMo this month. There’s even an “official” Camp NaNoWriMo going on. Another first draft, she said. This is her third “first” draft.

Bloody hell.

I know what her problem is. Focus. Per usual. She’s got too many fecking things bouncing around in that head of hers, not the least of which is …

*slam*

“Are you kidding me? You sent me on a walk so you could do my blog post for me? What the hell?” My writer storms across the office and stops in front of the desk, hands on hips.

“You needed the walk, love. Tell me you didn’t work on the plot during your walk.” I venture one of my charming crooked smiles. “I dare you.”

Heh. I can see it in her eyes. She did, but she doesn’t want to admit it. “I can’t add words to my draft if I’m out walking. I’m behind, which you well know, and I won’t be able to catch up this weekend because I’m going to my dad’s.”

“You know, love, there is such a thing as voice-to-text.”

She rolls her eyes and groans. “Do you know what I do on my walks? Dude, I talk things through. That’s not writing, and if I used speech-to-text, it would be a mess. Seriously. Now get out of my chair and let me finish my post.”

If I could get her to direct that fire into her writing, she’d have no problem making her word quota. Easier said than done, of course. “No.”

Her jaw drops just a little. I love surprising her. She cocks a hip and crosses her arms on her chest. “I thought writing blog posts was outside your job description.”

It is. Sort of. “And here I thought you would appreciate the help since you will be away at your dad’s this weekend. That way you can focus on your first draft. Again.”

She offers a wry smile. “Very funny. You’re the Muse. You’re supposed to help me with this.”

“I’ve been trying, love. You’ve finally gotten the story rolling, haven’t you?”

“Sure. After three false starts. Half my word count is stuff I’m not going to use.”

“It’s a first draft. There’s going to be a whole lot of stuff you won’t use. That’s why it’s a draft.” I get to my feet and round the desk to face her. “I’m here, and I’ll be sticking around.” I lower my face to hers. “Don’t make me dig out my fedora and bullwhip.”

*stare-down silence*

“Fine.” Damn it. I shove around my Muse and drop into my chair, still nice and warm from him.

Anyway. Excuse me just one minute…

“Stop that.”

“What?”

God, he’s just so … er, aggravating sometimes. Yeah, let’s go with that. “Stop staring at me.”

He gives me that crooked grin of his. Is it warmer in here? “Then get to work, love.”

Arrgh. Okay. Bottom line, I’m behind on my first week word count. Like, way behind. I’m going to bring my computer or my iPad to my dad’s; between helping him sort stuff for the auction and digging through a couple boxes left with my name on them, maybe I’ll get a little time to do some writing.

Enjoy your weekend!


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Musing Mysteries, Part 1

I finished erasing the wall-sized whiteboard in my writing office. There. A nice, shiny, white expanse all ready for me.

And I stare at the nice, shiny, white expanse. Without a plan.

Which is my problem. No plan. Well, rather, I have a half-baked plan, but that’s about as tasty as a pancake that’s been pulled off the griddle too soon. You know, when it still has a gooey center.

So here’s the dilemma. I need to work on Book 2–which I’ve sort of drafted already, but the plot needs serious work. I’ve had things tumbling about in my head, and some stuff’s fallen into place, but there’s still a lot of questions.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m thinking too hard about it at this redraft stage. Kinda like Rough Draft, take 2. Or is it take 3 now?

“Why did I know I’d find you staring at a blank slate?” My Muse steps up behind me. He must have come in the back door. He leans on me, resting an elbow on my shoulder, his hand hanging limp. “So, how do you want to do this, love?”

“Well …” Man, he’s a bit distracting, all six-foot-two inches of so-easy-on-the-eyes Aussie complete with a super-cozy, super-soft, super-fuzzy arctic fleece shirt in a blue that complements his eyes. I duck away from him before I succumb. “I’ve got my presentation for the Writers’ Institute in April. Ten Clues to Writing Mysteries. Let’s work through those. Might help me organize the plan.”

He sighs. “You’ve got half of those things figured out already. Focus on what is still fuzzy.”

I press my lips together to make sure I don’t say it out loud. You’re fuzzy. Wuzzy. I had to. C’mon, you thought it, too. 🙂

He clears his throat and crosses his arms on his warm, fuzzy chest. “Julie.”

Busted. “Okay.” I grab a marker and start my list, in no particular order. Characters.

“You’ve got that figured out, right?”

“The protagonists, yeah, of course. This is book two. I know them.”

“Antagonist?”

“The cop that didn’t serve the restraining order right away.” He’s mentioned in the first book. “There’s still a lot of unresolved issues with the main character.”

My Muse waits. No foot-tapping yet. “And?”

“I’ve got secondary characters.”

“You need a stronger antagonist, love. You need more conflict with your main character.”

Yep. I know that. “Okay, so there are these brothers that are running …”

“Nope. Try again.”

Er. “There’s the drug boss that thinks the main character is in cahoots with the guy who was skimming from her. She wants her money, but my MC doesn’t know anything about it. Conflict and threat.”

He nods. “Okay, but there has to be more pressure on the antagonist. Is there something besides greed behind the threat?”

“Um…”

He takes a marker and adds a note. “Think about it. Next, what’s your protagonist’s motive? What’s the story goal?”

“Have you been talking to my writing mentor?”

“Focus, love.”

“Her goal is to make sure the man who helped her after the attack is cleared, so she needs to find out who killed the victim.”

“What are the stakes? What does she have to lose if she doesn’t figure it out?”

Dammit. Why did I think this was a good idea? “Her life. The bad guy thinks she was working with the victim, who skimmed from the pot.”

He adds it to the board. “Why does she have to figure this out?”

I know why he’s doing this. He’s walking me through the steps I haven’t thought enough about. (psst–I’m pretty sure he’s been talking to my writing mentor) “Because when she gets sucked into the mess, the man who encouraged her to keep going after the attack is the only suspect, and she has to clear his name. Payback for what he did for her.”

“Good.” He finishes the list. “One down.”

“Actually, that’s two. Character and stakes.”

He snaps the cap onto the marker. “Okay. Think about these for a bit, love. We’ll do some more next time.”

“Wait, what? Next time? Where do you think you’re going? I happen to know Mr. E is not available.”

He settles into one of the recliners, extends the footrest, and laces his fingers behind his head. “Let it simmer a bit. We’ll brainstorm in a few hours.”

I toss my marker onto the little shelf on the whiteboard. Well, okay then. I settle into the other recliner beside him. “You do know I’ve been brainstorming on this for a while. Like, weeks. Right?”

“And you’ve been spinning your wheels. Time to take this step by step.” He closes his eyes. “Think about the stakes. Think about what she risks by getting involved.”

“Did I mention she hated the victim because he was a buddy of the guy who tried to kill her?”

“Good. There’s a reason for her to not want to get involved, but she does because why?”

“Because of what the suspect did for her when she wanted to give up her dream.”

The corners of his mouth turn up in a grin. “Use that. Work on how that plays into the threat to your MC.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m stuck because I’m trying to address everything I know the story needs before I get into the story. Overthinking it. It’s a first–well, a do-over first–draft, it’s supposed to be a mess because part of the process is working out the story.

So far, I’m doing my Feb NaNo on my rural mystery, and working out the wrinkles in Book 2, because my editor said I can send her the first 50 pages and a synopsis when it’s ready. It’s going to be a while. For those wondering about my NaNo progress, week 1 word count is 16,643.

I’ll walk through the other clues in my presentation over the next few weeks. Maybe this’ll help with Book 2. It should help. If nothing else, I can say I’m working on it, right?

Have a great writing weekend!


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The Write Stuff?

I’m going to do it. I am. I am going to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo this month.

Yep. Gonna. Not book 2, though. I think I need to let that sit for a bit (as if I’ve touched it much in the past month). I’m going to rewrite my other WIP. And I’m going to get the draft finished before the Writers’ Institute.

You heard me.

“Yes, I heard you, love.”

Gulp. My Muse is standing in front of my writing desk, strong arms crossed on his broad chest. He’s wearing a medium blue sweatshirt proclaiming “Bold North”, the Minnesota theme for Super Bowl 52.

I suppose they wanted to head off the inevitable “Cold North”. Secretly, I’m glad we’re colder than average this week. We should be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 F. We’ve had high temps this week in the single digits. And now:

Capture

Just proves we really are cold in the winter (not that anyone doubted it). Heh. Yes, we live where the air can hurt your face. And we still spend time outside (as evidenced by the St Paul Winter Carnival going on besides all the activities and outdoor concerts for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis).

Back to the “Bold North” sweatshirt. “So, er, did you enjoy the ‘Super Bowl Experience’?” I, on the other hand, was catching up with a bunch of paperwork, including FSA and tax stuff. Ugh.

He looks at his shirt. “Meh. Best part was listening to all those people from warmer climates ‘enjoying’ the weather here.”

“You, ah, do any pub crawls?” Here’s hoping he doesn’t catch on to the fact I’m trying to distract him.

“Actually, yes. Mr. E and I found a new bar. It’s got atmosphere, and no karaoke. I hate karaoke. So, love, when are you planning to start this NaNo February? Which, according to the calendar, you should have started last night.”

“You were apparently at a new bar last night, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some paperwork. Atmosphere, huh? What else did that bar have? Did you guys get in a few rounds of pool? Darts? No bar fights?”

“We never get into bar fights.” He frowns, those piercing blue eyes of his narrowed. “Stop trying to distract me, love. I already told Mr. E no pub crawls for a few weeks. Should be enough time for you to do your ‘NaNo’. Then we’re gong to dig back into Book 2.”

“I haven’t heard back from my editor yet. I’ll have to work on that manuscript first.”

“Of course.” He plants hands on my desk and leans over me. “But until then, you will work on that WIP.”

“Hey, I’ve got some stuff to do for the Writers’ Institute in April, and I’ve got some interview questions I need to answer and send back by next week.”

“Excuses.”

“Legit.” I pull out the sheet of questions from a marketing person at UW-Madison. “See.”

He doesn’t look. “Uh-huh. Don’t think I’m going to go off on any more pub crawls and leave you unsupervised until you hit 50k words on your WIP.”

“Good.” I think. Yep, pretty sure it’s good.

“And no Super Bowl. The Vikings aren’t playing anyway.”

“I’m okay with that.”

He straightens, makes a beeline for one of the recliners in a corner of my writing office, and settles in. “I’ll be watching you.”

Sheesh. At least there’s no bullwhip in sight. indianna-jones-hat-whip

“Looking for this?” My Muse holds up a leather coil.

Hoo-boy.

 

I’ll be writing this weekend. Will you?