Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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The Days After

Hope you all (in the US) enjoyed your Thanksgiving occasion without too much politicking, eating of yummy stuff, and shopping.

Ugh. Shopping. I’m an armchair shopper; you couldn’t pay me enough to battle the masses for in-store deals.

Well, okay, if I was getting a free shopping spree or something I’d manage.

I’ve got both Thanksgiving Day and the infamous “Black Friday” off of work as paid holidays (Yay!!) My son is home from college, my daughter has no school, and I didn’t have to cook for Turkey Day. I had two things that I wanted to take BF pricing advantage of.

There. Shopping done–for now. The kids haven’t gotten their lists together yet. I’ve got an extended weekend to catch up on stuff. I should clean… Um, I’m sure I have a reason to procrastinate on that.

Just before Turkey Day I sent my revised WIP to the agent who requested the revise and resubmit.

Hurry up and wait. And pray. And cross my fingers.

Now what? Dig into another book that needs revision? Which one? Another romantic mystery? My contemporary fantasy? Oh, I know. I need to come up with ideas for more books using my WIP characters (suggested by said agent).

I never thought about more adventures with those characters. My detective mystery, yes–I’ve got the next three books drafted. This one, though, not so much. Maybe I just haven’t gone that far yet; I’ve been focusing on polishing this installment.

I love the characters, and I love the setting and the premise, but I honestly never thought much beyond this book, though in the back of my mind I knew the possibility existed that I’d need to come up with something more for them.

No time like the present.

Sometimes stories start out as multiple episodes, like my detective series. But what if the story doesn’t start out that way? How do you come up with additional adventures for your characters?

Brainstorm! *sets up the brainstorming wall*

Yep. *looks around for colorful brain clouds amassing for a deluge* Uh-huh. *searches the horizon* O-kay. Any time, now.

I got nothin’.

Now what? You created the characters, breathed life into them, put them through conflicts and trials and heartache and, eventually, success of some sort. They survive to the end of the story, and you wish them good luck and move on to another story with other characters.

Except you need to go back to those characters, knock on their doors, and present them with a new itinerary.

Granted, nothing is for sure in this business, but it doesn’t hurt to be proactive. So, how does one go about creating more adventures for characters you love but just didn’t expect to spend more time with?

Everyone’s process is different. I know the appeal of my characters lies in their professions and the setting, so those are good places to start. My main protagonist works in the aviation industry, something I think people will want to read about, so I need to stick with that. Airports. Air shows. Air museums. Air guitars–er, maybe not. My other character is in law enforcement, so that falls naturally into a mystery.

My characters are developed, so I can shortcut that a bit, even though each adventure should encourage them to change a little. Now what? I need at least one dead body, multiple suspects, and a solid motive. The victim and/or the suspects and/or the culprit should have some sort of tie to the main characters. There needs to be conflict. My main characters have to be threatened somehow, have to have an “all hope is lost” moment, and need to come out on top in the end.

I cracked open a fresh notebook for the project, a two-subject one so I can use each section for a different story. And stared at the blank page.

So I started with the setting. I figured if I could at least give myself a starting point, I’d have something to work with. Then I added the big 6: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. Then started throwing ideas at the brainstorming wall.

p_20161126_073605_cr The more I tossed ideas around, the more that stuck to the wall as possibilities for the new story. I’m up to five pages of ideas, and the plot is starting to coalesce. I’ve got the tie to my main character, another source of conflict for the main character that leaked in from my WIP, and multiple suspects.

It’s starting to look a lot like a novel-in-the-making. Once I have the story figured out, I can do a rough outline, or (heaven forbid!) a synopsis (cue the spooky music and evil laughter).

Ugh.

Then I can dive into a first draft. I see another self-imposed NaNo month in my future. Maybe February.

How do you come up with “the further adventures of” for characters who didn’t start out starring in more than one book? Days of intense brainstorming? Afternoon walks through the woods? People-watching at the mall?

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing!

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Revise, Revisit, and Revamp

(Okay, I cheated on the title since revise and revamp are synonyms, but it’s the rule of threes I tell you 😀 )

I reach over for my coffee, a Kona blend from Hawaii with hints of white chocolate and macadamia nut. The current view from my writing office overlooks bird-of-paradise and hibiscus bushes outside at the feet of papaya trees. I can hear the faint rumble of a waterfall in the distance, behind the sounds of the stream burbling over rocks just outside.

My Muse enters without knocking, as usual. He’s still wearing the Vikings jersey, and well-worn (in every sense of the adjective) jeans. “What’s with the Hawaiian theme?”

“It’s been a good week.”

“Hawaiian good?” He picks up the mug I just set down and sniffs it before sipping. “Hawaiian coffee, too?”

“I figured I’d run with the theme for now.”

He wanders to the window. “You’re not slacking, are you?”

“I’m revising, you know that. Hell, you went all Indiana Jones on my ass and canceled your pub crawl to make sure I dug in.”

He turns from the window and smiles that crooked grin that melts a little something inside. “It worked. Besides, Mae’s got Mr. E on house arrest anyway while she works on book 3.”

I reach for my mug, and realize he’s still got it. I’m going to have to make another pot if he’s gonna bogart my coffee. “That’s my cup.”

“Get a different one. I haven’t had Kona for a while.” He sips my java as he wanders to the wall-sized white board. Frowns. “Where are the new threads?”

“I haven’t worked them through yet. I’m still not sure how to weave them in.”

He takes a marker. “If you’re going to go with the agent’s suggestions–and I strongly recommend it because they make sense–you need to reference the brother’s added thread here,” he makes a note on my timeline, “here, and here. If you work with your victim’s thread,” he takes a different colored marker, “you need to adjust here and here for sure. Probably here as well.” He scribbles something.

I join him at the board. “What on earth does that say?”

He peers at his handiwork, then wipes it off with the side of his fist and rewrites it. “Can you read it now?”

Revenge. “Really? That’s quite the trope. I was going to soften her a bit.”

“But if she’s thinking of payback for what happened …”

“How’s that better than blackmail?”

He finishes the coffee and heads to the coffeemaker for a refill. “It’s the personal connection that counts. Revenge requires it to be more personal. The closer the personal connection between the victim and the antagonist, the higher the stakes. That’s Mystery and Suspense 101. Bonus points if there’s a connection between the protagonist and the antagonist.”

I follow the thread. “I just cut five hundred words, and I still need to cut. How am I supposed to add these without bumping my word count back up? I’ll need to add a scene to make the brother’s thread change work.”

He rests an arm around my shoulders. “No, you won’t, love. Well, maybe. Depends on how you handle it.”

“Any suggestions?”

He squeezes my shoulders. “Lots. Let’s get started.”

Isn’t it funny/aggravating when a what-if question or suggestion makes you realize the story has to include that idea? Like a head-slapping “duh” moment?

Yeah, it’s like that.

Sigh. And after I’ve submitted it to agents. Ugh. At least I haven’t gone too far in the submission process quite yet. Small-ish changes, but they’ll round out a couple threads nicely.

Have a great weekend!

 


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Anticipation

Can you believe we’re halfway through summer already? No, not the actual astronomical summer (you know, like the solstices and equinoxes), the school’s out summer.

We’re halfway through July. O. M. G.

I feel like I missed a big chunk of it so far. Wait, I did. Two weeks’ worth after my surgery. Not to mention all the other busy stuff.

Ack!

Finally got the weeding finished (and of course I need to start over, but I’m tired). Started picking zucchini and green beans. Mmm! Fresh green beans from the garden trump frozen every time. Canned beans don’t even come close. And it’s early enough in the season that zucchini actually sounds good. (Yep, just wait a couple weeks 😮 )

I’d post pics, but I haven’t taken any since I beat the weeds back. I’ll try to post some next week. The corn is tassling, so we should have some in a week or so. Raspberries are ripening, but it seems like they do an every-other-year thing. Last year we had a bumper crop. This year, not so much. I’m not picking wild black raspberries this season, either. I made a couple batches of jelly with what I had frozen from last year, so we should be good for a bit. Besides, I really don’t want to be lunch for mosquitoes.

Made it two-thirds of the way through revising my WIP, and I should be able to finish this weekend. Whew! I’m behind, and the two weeks I was out of commission didn’t help. Now that I’ve caught up on weeding for a minute, I’m focusing on finishing.

The best thing coming up? Nope, not my sister’s visit next week, though I am looking forward to it. Nope, not the pool party family gathering the weekend after.

*Drumroll*

My writing sisters reunion retreat! Three weeks. *happy dance* Not only do I get to spend a few days with some crazy creative writers and good friends, but I get to focus on writing. All weekend. This year we’re having a plotting weekend. So. Much. Fun. There’s nothing quite like getting a bunch of writers together and helping each other with plotting new stories. We throw so many wild ideas out there, the brainstorming wall needs cleaning a couple times a day.

I’ve made some writer friends in the blog-o-sphere, and I was thinking about what it would be like to spend a day with them talking about plots, writing, and all the fun stuff that goes with those creative processes. Man, I think it’d be a hoot! We’re scattered across the country, many countries, but wouldn’t that be cool?

My point is, if you can gather with a couple writer friends for a weekend, just a girls/guys weekend where you do nothing but talk writing, do it. If you know a writer who lives fairly close, meet at a halfway point. There’s an energy that surrounds us creative folks that just seems to multiply when we get together.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wait. Almost forgot. I suppose you wanted an update on the orphans, right? Well, we found a new home for the pair. I put an ad in the local paper, and we got one call from a gentleman who wanted them both. He just got a kitten about the same age as the orphans, and wanted a buddy for him.

We dropped the kittens off last weekend. Now, before you worry about the sort of home our little foundlings are in now, let me tell you, we have no worries. The gentleman, in his late 70s or in his 80s, has a menagerie. Seriously. We drove up and saw a well-kept yard. Behind the house, a number of fenced areas housed chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, peacocks, and at least one donkey.

This gentleman took the kittens from their box and cradled them in his arms before handing them off to a couple friends rocking on the porch, one petting the other kitten. An old collie kept an eye on everything.

Yep, I think they’ll like their new home.

Okay, you want a couple final doses of cuteness? Here you go.

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The inside scoop

I add another tweak to the sentence, hit “Save”, and stand to stretch. Gads, I’m going to have to print the whole manuscript out again. Writing longhand does have merits, but I’m not going to write a 90k-word book by hand. I find editing on paper is better for me. I can often catch things I miss otherwise, and it’s easier to check things pages or chapters back in hard copy.

Coffee’s empty, and I’m feeling the drag. I grab my cup and open the office door.

Holy crap! Have you ever pushed open the door to the ladies’ room at the exact same time someone inside is pulling it open to leave? Yeah, it was like that.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I just … Your Muse called and, um, I thought he’d be here. He said to go right in.” She loops a lock of dark brown hair with a stark white tress around an ear. “He isn’t, is he?”

Of course he isn’t. I’m sure he didn’t think twice about calling her to stop by, and then heading out to “run errands”. Setting me up is more like it. “Hi, Sierra. Nope, he isn’t here, but I’m sure that was his plan all along.” I step aside and invite her in. “Where’s Quinn?”

She blushes. Her mouth curls into a smile, like she’s remembering a private joke. “Working. Your Muse said he didn’t need to be here.”

Uh-huh. Of course he did. I offer her coffee, which she turns down because she works tonight. I fill my mug and grab a bottle of water for her before we settle down at the small table in my office. “Did he tell you why he wanted you to come?”

“Something about ramping up tension and you needing help.”

“I thought I was doing okay once I got the whole suspicion versus romantic atmosphere thing figured out. Apparently he doesn’t agree or he wouldn’t have called you. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s conveniently absent for our meeting.” That’s when I notice the far-away look on her face amid a fading flush. “Sooo, how did breakfast go this morning?”

Her face reddens like my son’s skin from golfing without sunscreen. “Good.” Her tone indicates “good” isn’t quite the word she’s thinking. I imagine “mind-blowing” is closer.

Sigh. I remember those days.

O-kay. She isn’t going to like this next part. Correction, Quinn isn’t going to like it. “Did you tell Quinn you work tonight?”

She becomes very interested in the ingredients on the bottle’s label. That’s what I thought; she’s much too cheery for things to have played out like I need them to.

“No.”

“You do realize you need to tell him.”

“I’ll leave him a note.”

“Yeah, no.  You remember the part where I said suspicion, right?”

She lifts her eyes to mine. The left one really is a little paler than the right. Matches the side her white tress is on. “What does that have to do with me? He knows I’m not involved. I just found the body.”

Not so much. “You need to tell him you’re going to work tonight so he can tell you what he … ” Dammit. I can’t tell her, it’ll ruin her reaction. “Never mind. We need to replay the breakfast scene, and you need to tell him before he leaves.”

“What do you mean by ‘replay’?” She sounds excited, like she gets to go to Disneyland all over again.

Man, I miss those days before kids, back when we had energy.

“I’ll take you back to the point where you make breakfast and Quinn’s getting ready for work.”

Her enthusiasm wanes. “Can’t you go back a little further?”

I feel my evil side peek out. Mwahahahaha. “Don’t need to.”

“Please? It’s only a couple hours.”

“I’m on too tight a deadline.” I think my horns are showing.

“Sorry I’m late.” My Muse makes his entrance, sliding his aviator sunglasses up onto his head. “What’d I miss?”

The scenes I’m working on have taken longer than I expected, but I think in the end it’ll be good. I’m at an emotional turning point for my main characters; hoping I’m up to the challenge!

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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When you need to say “Duh”

T-minus 4 days and counting until the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI.

Four days.

So, here I am, on my lunch break working on my synopsis, when I stop in mid-thought.

Yes, it really was. I was like, but what about the climax? I’ve got two main events, and they’re both like, the climax, but I can’t …

*face-palm*

DUH!

Gawd, why didn’t I put this together earlier? OMG. Seriously.

And this after I’ve got my first 50 pages shined up pretty well.

We’re talking major brain fart here. No rainbows in sight. Or unicorns.

*enters writing office*

*breaks ‘in case of emergency’ glass*

*pushes big red button*

The neat thing about the phone on my writing desk is I can set ring tones (Hey, it’s my office). Guess which one I’ve got set for my Muse. I listen to the first few bars of “Holding Out for a Hero” before I answer.

“What’s the emergency?” he asks. “I’m kinda busy.” I hear cheering in the background.

“Busy? Sounds like you’re at a rugby match.”

Silence. “You were entertaining family this weekend, so I took some time off. What’s the emergency, love?”

“I need you here ASAP. I’ve got to revise the plot for my WIP tonight.”

“Again? I thought you were going to be Skyping tonight. You cleaned up the brainstorming wall before I left.”

“I will be Skyping, and then I’ll be revising. In other words, get your ass back here.”

More silence. “Ask nicely.”

Seriously? Fine. “Help me with my plot revision. Please.”

He sighs into the phone, like I’m a major inconvenience. He’s supposed to be on my schedule; it’s his job. “After this match. It just started, so it might be a while.”

“You know when I get home from work. I’ve got beer,” I add, just in case.

“I’ll see you later, love.” Click.

Does this ever happen to you? You think you’ve got the plot nailed down, and things seem to work, and then BAM! You realize you missed an obvious plot point. Or, in my case, a whole freaking thread. Actually, two threads that should be one.

Stupid brainstorms.

Happy Monday!


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The Brainstorming Wall

I step back and admire the wall. It’s an expanse that stretches the length of my writing office, but more. It’s bigger than it looks because it’s curved just enough to add a couple feet to the length.

So, what’s on my brainstorming wall? A fresh coat of ideas, put up this morning with the help of some close writing friends. (I actually started writing this post last night, but distractions abound.) I’m trying to sort out my notes, matching them with the colored splashes on the wall. Still looking for that juicy tomato–wait, there it is, under the alfredo splotch.

“What the hell, love?” My Muse appears beside me. “Were you finished with it? The old storm? I thought you were still working on the revision.”

I glance at him. He’s dressed down in black sweatpants and a faded UCLA sweatshirt. “Slumming today?”

He shoves his sleeves to his elbows and crosses his arms on his chest. “You’ve been doing well, young Padawan.”

“Um, yeah, don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Do ‘Star Wars’ lines. Your Australian accent just doesn’t work with the whole Ewan McGregor thing. Or Liam Neeson. Or whomever.”

He puts a hand over his heart. “That hurts.”

“Har, har. The draft of my WIP is based on the old storm. This here is for the next round of revision.”

He approaches the wall, then swipes a finger against a grape jelly splash. “What’s this one?”

“That’s the one for compressing the FAA investigation timeline. I think it’s a great idea. I just have to figure out how to work that in with how long the victim was dating her current boyfriend, not that it’ll matter in the big picture. It just ups the tension for the main character.”

“So, what you’re telling me is I’d better take my vacation now.” He licks the jelly off his finger.

Um, give me just a moment. *mental side trip*  Sigh. *fans face with hand*

“Why do you need to take a vacation? I’m working on my WIP every day. You haven’t had to kick my ass the past couple weeks. I thought you’d be enjoying this smooth run.”

“Oh, I am, love.” He wraps an arm around my shoulders and squeezes. “You’re doing great. Keep it up.”

If you have close writing friends, use them for sounding boards when you have a story idea or plot knot. I’m fortunate to have my writing sisters. They’ve been instrumental in the plot revisions for my WIP, and their suggestions have made the story far stronger than it started out to be.

Writing friends are also good for reality checks, simply because they’ve had different life experiences than you have. I have a stalker in my WIP. One of my writing sisters had some insight on stalkers/predators, and reminded me how someone would really behave if they had a stalker in their past.

Whew! Caught it before I got too far into revisions.

These days, technology allows us to keep in touch with people all over the globe. I’ve got writing friends I’ve never met in person, but whom I feel I could hang out with at a coffee house or library (well, maybe not library–might get too rowdy 😉 ) for an afternoon and talk writing.

Gotta get back to it. My Muse is starting to pace.

Write on!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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You okay in there?

Okay, so they’re in the kitchen on opposite sides of the peninsula, and he’s got a good hold of her arm. She’s trying to keep him from pulling her over the top of the counter. No knives in range, and her free arm is in a cast and a sling.

Crap. What can I put in the drawers she can reach that will help her but not sound like I put it there on purpose? Food wrap, check. Those serrated metal edges can be used as weapons. What else? Maybe the junk drawer is here. Hmm. Screwdrivers, tack hammer, pliers, and what else? If her arm’s in a cast, it has to be something she can use without swinging her bad arm.

*knock, knock*

Really? *hits ‘Save’* “What?”

My Muse eases the door to my writing room open. “You okay in here?”

I lean back in my chair and sigh. “No. What can I put in a drawer that a person with an arm in a cast can use as a weapon?”

He leans a hip against my writing desk. Today he’s wearing a burgundy thermal Henley shirt that stretches across his defined chest, and jeans that look like he’s quite at home in them. “Food wrap boxes. They have a serrated metal strip.”

“No. She’d have to swing that. Something else.”

He sets an open bottle of craft beer next to me, and takes a swig from another. “WD-40.”

“Dude, it’s a junk drawer. There’s no room for a can of WD-40 in a junk drawer. Hell, half the junk drawers I ever owned could barely contain the junk much less tools.”

“No, love, I’m talking a pocket-sized can. They sell them at auto parts stores by the checkout, complete with their own little red straws.”

“You mean, those straws that promptly vanish the instant you put the can away? Without the straw, the WD-40 goes everywhere.” I taste my own bottle. It’s nice, with good body, not too hoppy. Reminds me of Schell’s Oktoberfest lager.

“Silly string?”

I look up at him. I have to grin at the sight of his crooked smile. “In a junk drawer? This is the home of a divorced cop with no kids. Why the hell would he have silly string in his junk drawer? A can of silly string wouldn’t even fit in a junk drawer. C’mon, you came in, and you’re the muse. Help me out, here. Once I figure this out, I can get her away from the bad guy.”

He takes another sip. “What would a cop keep in a junk,” he makes air quotes, “drawer? Anything different than anyone else?”

“You know, I hate it when you do that. Just give me a hint.”

“I did, love.” His crooked grin is joined by a mischievous glint in his baby blues.

I grumble. “Not pepper spray, because why would a cop need pepper spray in a junk drawer? Not tear gas, because you can’t just buy that. Not a Taser–again, he wouldn’t just have one in the junk drawer.”

“Why does it have to be a junk drawer?”

“What else would it be? The silverware drawer is in the corner of the peninsula, and the utensil drawer would be there, too.”

“Does he grill?”

“Sure. Doesn’t everyone?”

“Okay. Does he grill at night?”

Oh my gawd. Seriously? I open my mouth to retort, then stop as the creative wheels hit a sweet spot. I think I’ve found my answer. Maybe.

My Muse chuckles. “Got it, now?”

Arrgh. “You know, if you just listed suggestions it’d be easier for me to pick one instead of making me guess.”

“Yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.” He points the bottle at me. “Finish up. You busted your deadline by a week, and you still aren’t done. Get your ass in gear, love. We’ve got the other manuscript to tweak, and this one to polish. April will be here before you know it.”

“Don’t remind me.”

I’m trying to finish up my WIP draft, and I’m hitting some bumps. I’ve gone radio silent from some of my other groups for a bit, including my MeetYourMainCharacter.com group, for the past couple weeks so I can focus. Not that it’s helped. Still, I can see the finish tape.

Stay warm, everyone! Our temp today is all of one degree above zero, but hey, it’s sunny. Hel-looo, Winter! Don’t feel you have to stick around.