Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Kick it in Gear

Wait, what? So, here I am, ready to write up this week’s post, and I’m greeted with a snazzy new post-writing interface, courtesy of WordPress minions. (I think they’re minions. Cuter than gremlins, right?)
minion Okay, it just threw me a little.

We’re past the halfway point in the writing frenzy otherwise known as NaNoWriMo (or, in my case, NaNoRevMo). I’ve been doing pretty good–sort of. Still trudging through the middle of the new plotline, but with the craptastic rainy weather we’ve had the past couple days, it’s been good for my writing focus.

Still, it feels like I’m still slogging. I’m working on a scene where the new plot diverges noticably from the original storyline. From this point on, I’ll have to write more new scenes, versus recycling original ones.

Writing new scenes is like cooking the meal from scratch versus creating something new from leftovers in the fridge. Like just-off-the-grill steak and piping-hot baked potatoes versus beef and barley soup–hold the barley, add some potatoes instead. Both great, but the leftovers need more creative energy to tweak just right.

So, I’m forging ahead with a map of scenes that should be included, a compass that works most of the time (except when I’m on FB, dammit), and a Muse who seems to be less overbearing than usual. Question is, is it because I’m struggling to focus that he isn’t manning the whip?

“I can tell you why, love.” My Muse waves a partially-folded map at me. He’s channeling Indiana Jones today, complete with fedora, bullwhip, and shirt open halfway down his very fine chest. Wow, and I thought Harrison Ford was nice back in the day.

“Hey,” he snaps his fingers until I meet his gaze, “are you listening?”

“Um, what?”

He sighs and shakes his head. “Pay attention.” He snatches the map on my desk and replaces it with the one he brought.

“Hey, that’s my–”

“No, it isn’t.” He points to the denouement section of the recalled map. “Wrong project, love. Why are you working on this? This is the sixth or seventh book of your Donovan and Drake series. You don’t have representation for the first one yet. Hell, you don’t even have this installment outlined, much less drafted.” He rolls it up and shoves it into his back pocket. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“I know,” I say, trying to sound both chastised and contrite. Not sure I managed on either account. I pick up the map he tossed on my desk. Yep, this is my WIP.  It’s just that some stories are more fun to play with, especially when your WIP isn’t as interesting right now as the other story, the one that just popped into your head and said “pay attention to me”. Kinda like a cat. I’ve got the creative energy moving, but it needs to be redirected.

“Bullshit. I know you. You’re gonna play in the other story until you’re sitting in your writing chair with your WIP on the screen.” He pulls out a strongbox, one with a slot on top, then unrolls the map from his pocket. “Know what this is?”

A chill quiets my creative energy. Shit. It’s my idea box–correction, it’s my substantive idea box, the one that holds all my partially-defined stories. “C’mon, don’t put it in there. Dammit, it’s gonna take me months to sort through everything in there.”

He slips the map through the slot, then pulls a key from a pocket. “I’ve got the key. This doesn’t get opened until you finish your WIP. Got it?”

“Fine.”

Hop on over to the Meet Your Main Character blog. We’ve got a great guest post from my fellow blogger, D. Wallace Peach, who writes YA fantasy. Due to some technical difficulties, our webstress didn’t get Diana’s bio up, so here’s a link to her blog, Myths of the Mirror. She’s rocking some great numbers for NaNo, so while she’s otherwise focused, she’s posted a four-part sci-fi story. Check it out!

We’ve also got a new author in our group over at MYMC, and we lost our web mistress, so the site is a bit behind. It’ll take some time to get things moving again while our replacement webstress gets oriented. With any luck, we’ll be back up to speed in no time.

 

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Slow Out of the Gate

Hiya! Day Four of NaNoWriMo is almost here.

My grand plan to dig deep into my WIP rewrite is stumbling off the starting block. I’m like the dust hovering in the wake of American Pharoh’s first step out of the gate at the Breeder’s Cup.

Can you say “real life”? I knew you could.

So, needless to say I’m a bit late with my blog post. And I think my Muse is hanging at the pub with Mr. E, because he’s certainly not gracing me with his presence. I’ve been staring at the same scene for two days, not sure where I want to take it.

Slam!

What the–

“Don’t be blaming me for your brain freeze.” My Muse leans against the door he so rudely closed. He’s wearing a black polo with the Guinness logo embroidered on the upper left chest, dark indigo jeans, and deck shoes. The stink of stale beer, fried food, and cigarette smoke hovers around him.

“Oh, and I suppose your pub crawl with Mr. E supersedes working with me on this? Where the hell were you, anyway? Smoking’s not allowed in bars anymore.”

“Cork. That’s in Ireland, love. You’d like it. Very nice local brew, good music, friendly folks.”

“I know where Cork is. In case you forgot, my contemporary fantasy is set in that area of Ireland. Are you finished getting your wanderlust out of your system for a while? Ready to get to work?”

“Are you?” he counters. “You’re not settled.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means,” he paces to a stop in front of me and pokes a finger into my forehead, “someone’s shaking the jar up here, and the marbles haven’t stopped moving.” He lowers his hand to my shoulder. “You aren’t focusing.”

I brush his hand off my shoulder and retreat a step. “First off, you smell like a bar. Second, that’s why I need you to stick around.”

He shakes his head. “Um, no. My job, as your Muse, is to channel creative energy and foster inspiration. Your job, my darling writer, is to sit your ass in the chair where there aren’t any distractions and focus on the story.”

“And here I thought your job was to keep me in line so I can write.”

His grin is far too warm and welcoming. I’m starting to feel like a cat being lured into the carrier for a trip to the vet. “It is, but that’s so my primary tasks are more effective.”

“O-kay.”

He heads to my writing chair. At his touch, it changes from a worn, stuck-halfway-to-recline, Lay-Z-Boy wanna-be into a plush oh-man-I-could-so-sleep-there chair. Why doesn’t this make me feel any better?

“You know that chair says ‘take a nap’ more than it says ‘sit your butt down and write’, don’t you?”

He settles into the comfy chair and puts his hands behind his head. “Yep.” He waves at a corner of my writing area. An ergonomic kneeling/sitting chair appears, complete with a small desk at the appropriate height. To his credit, the view from my window now looks directly into a thick Northwest forest complete with ferns, moss, and a sense of quiet wonder. “Now, get to work, and maybe I’ll let you take a turn here after you get a couple chapters done.”

“Or what?”

Something electric crackles in the air. The scent of ozone wafts past me. “I’ll think of something.”

 

 


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Countdown (and a bit of bragging)

One week, and a large portion of the writing community I’m in touch with is on NaNo watch. They’re hurrying to finish (start?) their outlines and gather research for their NaNoWriMo novels. The starting line is just ahead. One of the FB groups I belong to has a number of writers who are ready to hit the keys. I’m all up for cheering them on, and I’m really trying to resist the urge to rub in the fact I cleared 50k+ words in 28 days. Nah nee nah nee boo boo. Being a NaNo veteran has some advantages 🙂

A sweet earthy scent fills the air in my writing area. Autumn leaves. I turn. My Muse is getting comfortable in one of those folding chairs that tuck into a bag. He rests his feet on a short, fold-up stool. He’s keeping with the rough, outdoorsy look, complete with flannel, denim, and lack of shaving for a few days. “You done yet, love?”

“Why?”

“Just get on with the bragging. I’m beyond ready to put that garden of yours to sleep for the winter.”

“Don’t say the ‘w’ word.”

He laces his fingers and rests his hands on his lean belly. “Why not? They’re predicting snow showers possible for Thursday.” He makes a winding motion with a finger. “C’mon, move it along so we can get to work.”

Grumble. “I worked this weekend. Where the hell were you?”

He scratches at the scruff on his cheek. “At the seminar.”

“What seminar?”

“The Muse seminar.”

Huh?

A blue coffee mug appears in his hand, complete with a logo that says “The Muse Seminar” in bold white font. Below that, it looks like, “NaNo, NaNo,” beside a caricature of Robin Williams in his longer hair days. “You don’t think we have to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Who do you think every writer participating turns to when they jump into the fray? Their Muse and any associated muses they’ve got on their roster.”

“Um, okay. Why didn’t you go last year?”

He sips something that smells like hot apple cider and brandy from the mug. “This is our first year. We’re mostly doing it for the NaNo virgins.”

“NaNo virgins? Let me guess, those are the writers who finally decided to participate this year for the first time. Do their muses–er, I mean, Muses really need so much help you had to put together a seminar?”

“You have no idea how scared some of those Muses were. Fifty thousand words is daunting to many writers. How do you think their Muses feel, especially when it’s their job to keep their writers going? Now, are you going to post those pics of your potato haul or what?”

Wait. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this seminar thing. “So, did the veterans give workshops? Speeches? I just can’t imagine over a hundred thousand Muses getting together–”

“It was closer to fifty thousand, and we rented the Olympus Parthenon.”

“Olympus?”

“Valhalla was already booked; the new attention on comics and Norse mythology is really screwing with our venues. Calliope convinced her sisters it’d be a good idea to rent out the space. Could’ve used more tropical decor, though. The food was good. Beer, not so much.”

“So, did you give a speech? Seeing as how you’re a NaNo veteran and all.”

“Naw. The keynote speakers were a couple of Calliope’s sisters. Oh, and Edgar Allen Poe’s Muse. Spooky chick. Special trip from the Other Side and all that since it’s so close to Halloween. I gave a workshop on keeping your writer motivated when all she wants to do is garden.”

Har har. “It’s not want, it’s–”

“Yeah, save it. Post the damn pics, already.”

Fine. Here they are, pics of my potato haul.

barrow1 barrow3

We grow Yukon Gold potatoes from last year’s leftovers we didn’t get a chance to eat. There might be some Russets involved, but mostly the Yukons. Yes, that is the same plastic softball I used for size comparison with the onions. And I already dug a bunch of potatoes earlier in the year, so all told, both barrows would be full.

one potato

“There, happy?”

My Muse sips his drink. “Better. Now, then, let’s see what you did this weekend.”

Gotta go. Enjoy your week before the madness!


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No, this is not yet another post about NaNoWriMo

Catchy title, eh? I’ve been catching up on reading the blogs I follow, and there seems to be a lot more about NaNo this year in particular than I remember in years past. Maybe it’s because more writers have decided to throw their towel–er, hat in the ring of madness that is NaNo. This post, in particular, summarizes NaNo quite well.

I did my NaNo this year in February, so even though I’ll be posting my numbers from Feb each day, I’ll be working on revisions of that novel.

Okay, so I kinda bent the truth a little in my title. But really, the post isn’t entirely about NaNoWriMo.

Remember those days back in college? You know the ones, especially those first days of your freshman year, when you were still working through the reality of living on your own, with new classes in different buildings, new people to meet, and the responsibility of going to classes, doing homework, finding a job, and all the other new experiences (dorm roommate, anyone?) that go with it. There’s an atmosphere on college campuses, I think, that can bring us back to that time in our lives.

This past week was MEA (MN Educators Association) week, so the kids had Thursday and Friday off from school. This is a perfect time for colleges to hold open houses for high school seniors. My son is a senior this year, and on Friday headed off to one college open house with my hubby and his aunt (hubby’s sister), since I was working. On Saturday, we headed to another open house at the college I attended twenty-five (OMG! Holy crap I’m getting old!) years ago.

Boy, talk about a time warp. Some parts of the campus looked just like I remember, but there’s been so much new stuff (skyways? We never had skyways when I went there) added, I hardly recognized it. But just being there reminded me of those days I walked the campus. And that, in turn, made me wonder where all the friends I’d made back then ended up. One friend shared my love for Airwolf, and shared a treasure trove of fanfic with me (there was no Wattpad or FanFiction.net back then). Another invited me on a trip to the Oshkosh EAA air show (that’s a post all by itself) with 6 other members of the flying club.

The trip also made me realize how much I’ve changed since then. After my initial attempt to accept that yes, I’m older and now my son is getting ready to head to college, I realize how my life journey has circled around to (sort of) where I was back then. I wrote my first book during my grade school years, my second book through high school, and a fun play starring me and my closest friends (which we won’t ever mention again 😉 ), then took a sojourn from writing while I was in thrall with aviation. I started writing again when I took an English class in MI, and progressed to the point of getting a couple short stories published before my son was born. I didn’t get back to writing until later.

I started writing fantasy and science fiction, and I’m writing mystery now. What a tour! Has your life journey taken you away from writing? When did you return to it? Did you learn of your writing passion later in life? I sometimes wonder if I should’ve gone into an English major, but at the time, I wanted to be involved with aviation, then computers (well, always computers). Now, I write for a living (I’m a tech writer, so I do get a regular paycheck 😉 ) and I’m trying to join the ranks of published authors everywhere.

I wonder if this is where I was headed the entire time. I like to think I just took the scenic route. Lots of great experiences along the way, and I think I’m close to that place in my life I’ve wanted, but I just didn’t know it.

How about you? Are you close to that place in life you’ve learned you want or need to be?

Happy writing!


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Last Blast of Summer?

Guess what? It’s October–wait for it–I’m in Minnesota, it’s the second week of October, and it was almost 90 degrees yesterday. I know, right? It’s been so nice the past month that my tomatoes are setting new fruit. Yes, you read that right. I’ve got fresh leaves and green tomatoes on my plants. Normally, we’d have had a light frost by now that would’ve killed the plants.

Yesterday was summer. The day before was a super-nice, mid-seventies fall day. Today, less nice, less summer, more blustery fall. Wind, clouds, and an almost-forty-degree temperature drop from yesterday. Gotta love Minnesota weather. Fifties today, and the weather geeks are predicting frost by the weekend. Talk about weather whiplash!

Okay, I have to brag a bit. Remember the jaunt through the garden a couple posts back? I mentioned onions the size of softballs–bet you didn’t believe me, did you? Since it was so nice yesterday, I drafted my daughter to help me pick the onions. I knew we’d have a good haul, but OMG, this is a bit of overkill for a family of four, even if we use onions in just about everything.

2015 potatoes 2See that white ball? It’s a plastic facsimile of a softball (couldn’t find a real softball). I’m not sure weight-wise what we ended up with. We’ll leave them outside on box screens to cure for a while. Usually we’re good with one screen, which is about four feet by seven feet or so. This year, we needed a second screen. The air circulation is important; the onions need to develop a tough skin so they last longer in storage. 2015 potatoesThe past couple years have been lousy for onions–they kept getting washed out by heavy spring/summer rains. This year’s been superb for just about everything. Next on the docket: digging potatoes. I’ll have to wait until the onions have cured for a week or two before digging the potatoes. The potatoes will need to cure as well once they’re out of the ground so the skins will thicken a bit.

“Are you just about done, love?” My Muse is perched on a saw horse my hubby neglected to put away. He’s working the outdoorsman style again, complete with hiking boots, worn jeans, and flannel. “Enough about your prize onions.”

“Hey, I spent a lot of time this summer weeding these.”

“I know it.” He stands, hands hanging by his thumbs from his front pockets, and shakes his head. “You need to reset your focus. Shift from summer to winter.”

“Don’t say the ‘w’ word,” I grumble. “You know I’ve still got stuff to do in the garden. I’ve got to pull out the soaker hoses, collect the stakes, take down the fence, finish harvesting. Hell, I’m still picking raspberries.”

“And NaNo starts in a couple weeks. You need to start focusing.”

“I did start. I got through the second chapter revision.”

“And you’ve got how many more to go? You can’t just start in November, love. You’ve got to get your ass in gear if you want to have a polished, query-ready novel by spring.”

“I know. How come you’re not busting my chops?”

He lays an arm around my shoulders. He smells like hot cocoa and fireplace smoke. “I’m saving up. I know you’ve got garden work left, so until the first frost, you’ll be distracted. But if there’s another day like today–cloudy and blustery–before then, you’re going to sit your ass down and push forward on the revisions. Got it?”

“Yeah, I got it. You know, you’re making me crave hot chocolate.”

His scent shifts from cocoa to onion. I push him away. “Gak. Seriously?”

He chuckles. “Be glad I didn’t pick cooking Brussels sprouts.”

Ugh. I love to eat them, but they smell worse than broccoli when cooking. He’s messing with me.

Enjoy the remaining days of colored leaves. This year’s been absolutely beautiful. I’ll try to catch a few of the spectacular colors in the next few days and share them with you.

Two weeks left to prep for NaNo. Are you ready?


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Autumn in Writersville

Ah, it’s my favorite season (followed closely by spring). The weather is comfortable, the sky is brilliant, the leaves are changing, and the garden is winding down. The worst part about autumn is knowing winter is coming. I can do about a month of winter, maybe two, before I start going crazy.

Now’s the time I’d normally spend putting together my outline for NaNoWriMo this year. I say normally, because I’ve already done my NaNo for the year–in February. Yep, 50k+ words in 28 days. That doesn’t mean I’m going to blow off NaNo in November. I figure, the point of NaNo is to write every day. It’s about this time every year I’ve lost that habit, and I need a refresher course.

This year, I plan on spending the time revising my WIP (written in Feb). I tracked my stats in February, so I’ll post those to the NaNo site, but I need to do a major overhaul, and NaNo is the perfect excuse/incentive to do so. I seen a few fellow writers post about maybe doing NaNo this year (Emily, I challenge you!) I’ve said it before: I feel the most important reason for doing NaNoWriMo is to develop the habit of writing every day. If you don’t, it’s a lot harder to hit the 50k word goal line.

Granted, if you don’t hit 50k, no one’s going to stop by your house and hang a “Loser” banner or anything, but it gives you a target. Bonus, if you do hit 50k or more, chances are you’ve got a rough draft of a completed novel on your hands. Just think, writing a novel in a month. Sure, it’s crap–it’s a rough first draft–but no matter how long it takes you to write a book, you’ll have to revise it (unless you’re George R. R. Martin, but that’s why it takes him years to finish his books).

Join me and the other 100k writers on a NaNo Noveling journey. Now’s the time to lay out your plans for your NaNo novel. I never used to outline, but the first year I did NaNo, I outlined a fresh story, one I hadn’t been mulling over in my head. I was surprised at how well it helped me develop the story. Ever since, I’ve taken October to outline my NaNo novels and do some research. Some writers just “pants” it–write by the seat of their pants. It works for them, and might work for you as well.

October is also Halloween. Okay, technically only the 31st is Halloween, but it seems like the foreplay lasts the entire month. I know people who celebrate Halloween like we celebrate Christmas: jump in with both feet at the beginning of the month and fill every day with little bits of the season. One writer has her Halloween mystery on special this month. Another writer has an October tradition he calls Macabre Macaroni.

I don’t get caught up in the whole H’ween thing, but I think people who like the season have a lot of fun with it. I’ll settle for colored leaves, Honeycrisp apples, and hot mulled cider (I’ll take hard cider if it’s available). Enjoy the new season, and enjoy your upcoming week. I’m off for a run, then the Vikings’ game. They’re taking on Denver today.

Cheers!


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The 777 Writer’s Challenge

The 777 Writer’s Challenge is making the rounds again. Love this one, as it’s a lot of fun and gets us refocused on our WIPs.

I was tagged by Mae Clair, who is currently on a blog tour promoting her new book, Myth and Magic. Check out her blog. She does a fun Mythic Monday post every week that stirs up the creative juices. She’s one of the great people I’ve met since I started participating in the writers’ realm. I’ve been writing for years, and the Internet is a wonderful medium for meeting other writers, especially when one can’t attend other writerly gatherings like conferences or workshops.

So, per the 777 Writing Challenge:

Go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to line 7, and share the next 7 sentences in a blog post. Once you have done that, tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their WIP.

I’m sharing a snippet from JUST PLANE DEAD, my current WIP and the result of a self-imposed NaNoWriMo session this past February (and in case you were wondering, yes, I did manage to write over 50k words in 28 days). This is part of the opening scene, where my protagonist, female aircraft mechanic Sierra Bauer, is starting on an inspection of an airplane. She’s being shadowed (for training purposes) by a chauvinistic mechanic from another maintenance base. Keep in mind this is revision 2 of the rough draft, hence the surplus “was” words (Fire sale on “was”! Step right up!) I’ve been battling weeds and neglecting my WIP, but it rained this morning, so I have an excuse to neglect the garden tonight 🙂

“What first, boss?”

At his condescending tone, her first reaction was to chew his ass. He was being a jerk, and she knew it was either because that’s just the way he was, or, more likely, because she was the expert here, not him. He was one of the most experienced mechanics on the Fokkers, but the beasts hadn’t flown into or out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for two years, and the Dash-8 was about as similar to a Fokker as a late-model sedan was to a Sherman tank. She reminded herself to be nice. “Grab a stand, get the removal handles from the tool room, and pull the left nose cone. Then start the inspection in the cockpit.”

And now I’d like to challenge the following 7 writer/bloggers. Participate if you can, but no worries if you can’t!

Ali Isaac
Andrea Connolly
Stuart M. Perkins
Anna Dobritt
Emily Bates
D. Wallace Peach
Nicholas C. Rossis