Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Has anyone seen my focus?

Photo by Daisy S on Unsplash

If you have, please send it home.

Yep, it’s been that kind of a week. I’m stuck in revision mode, but you know when you get to a spot you know you need to revise, but haven’t got a clue how to do it and not make it sound stupid? That’s where I’m at.

So I’ve been spinning my wheels, taking brainstorming walks, and debating whether to stick a pin in it and move on to the next spot. Thing is, how I revise this spot will affect other revisions later in the book. So, I need to figure this one out first.

Or do I work on another project for a few days and then go back to Book 2? Or do I take some time to work on my website and do all that other “administrative” stuff, like finding in-person events over the summer (you know, like street fairs, book fests, that sort of thing), the sort of stuff that is tough for writers to do in the first place. Although, it is nice that there are a lot of in-person things again.

I think I got out of practice, or just really comfortable not doing that stuff again. If I’m not at an in-person event, it means I can spend that much more time writing, right?

I have to give a lot of credit to real life stuff for derailing my focus. Who knew that worrying about a child trying to “adult” and having a tough time of it (because of her choices, despite the suggestions and shared wisdom of her parents) would torpedo so much creative energy? We offer guidance, suggest course corrections, but she’s still at the “not listening to my parents for the principle of it” stage.

Man, I can’t wait until that 21 year-old brain matures. If we’re lucky, she’ll listen and take our advice into consideration when making choices. Until then, we’re still pretty much dealing with a teenager. Sigh.

On the bright, “I can’t wait for it” side, I have my personal writing retreat (three-night stay) next weekend. Woo-hoo! Happy dance! Granted, I have expectations, and I know the weekend may not live up to them, but I’m hopeful. Intentional. If the weekend goes well, I’m going to try to schedule another personal writing retreat this summer.

Crossing my fingers! I’ll try to let you know how it goes; I will probably do my regular post, but if I’m on a roll, maybe not on my regular posting day.

After that, we have to get the garden planted; my tomato plants are more than ready to get into the ground. My pepper seedlings, on the other hand (and my brussels sprouts) are not doing well this year. I think I overwatered them, and they’re struggling to recover. I’ll have to go to the local greenhouse and get some plants. My cukes are coming along nicely; after last year and replanting 3 (4? 5?) times with only one plant as a result, I decided to start my cukes this year. I don’t normally, since I’ve never had much trouble when I’ve planted them directly in the garden, and cucumber plants don’t like being transplanted.

Anyway, after a brush with summer and nasty storms, the weather is settling into a more spring-like pattern–finally! It should be pretty comfortable next weekend, somewhere between the low 60s and mid-70s F for temps, and cooling to the mid-50s or so at night. The trees are waking up, and some are fully dressed again. I love the return of green plants!

Have a wonderful writing week!


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So many projects, so little focus

My favorite season is Spring. The trees wake up, the grass greens up, the flowers, the birds–the two pairs of wood ducks who always stop by on their way to wherever they go showed up earlier this week (not sure where they went, though; haven’t seen them lately). The mosquitoes aren’t out yet (but I understand ticks probably are), and it’s usually pretty nice temp-wise.

We had a nice spring last year, weeks of gorgeous weather if I remember right. A few years back, we had a couple weeks of spring, maybe. Then Memorial Day weekend was almost 100 degrees F. Ugh. Summer started waaay too soon.

This year? Oh boy. We still had lows below freezing last weekend. Yes, a week before May we had freezing temps at night. The highs have finally begun to reach the 50s. Of course, that doesn’t mention anything about the wind. OMG! A little wind is expected, but dang, we’re talking 20-25 mph gusting to 30+. Yeesh. And gray gloom. I’ve had to use my SAD therapy light a few times because the sun didn’t show up.

Anyway (you know that talking about the weather is part of MN culture, right? 😀 ). Getting focused has been tough lately, for some reason. Maybe it was the binge-reading of an urban fantasy series (K. N. Banet’s Jacky Leon series, if anyone is wondering). I needed something light, and I swear I was only going to re-read the first one …

No excuse, though. I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. Not too much, adjustments here and there, but I still have to think a bit about them. I have my game plans for revising both Book 2 and my synopsis. And my final is next week–yippee (only because that’s my last class–not looking forward to the final, but whatever)! So, studying is on the to-do list. I don’t have any classes for the rest of the year, because the classes I need aren’t being offered, so that’s a break. However, I’m going to try to test out of one of my required classes at some point this year. On the list for a later date.

I’ve got my task list, I just need to focus. Always seems to be easier said than done, especially while real life is bumpy. Could be bumpier, though. So, what to do …

My time-tested method to deal with it (especially when the weather is less than ideal for walking)? NaNoWriMo. A reinforcement of the “write every day” mantra. Granted, I won’t be trying to write 50k words, but I dedicate a couple hours every night to writing (which has the added bonus of allowing me to ignore the incessant news Hubs likes to watch).

And yes, I should work on Book 2 and the synopsis, but I feel like I need a little bit of a break. Maybe a weekend with another project, maybe my police procedural or my rural MN project. Or, maybe a weekend with my urban fantasy; not too much time, though, because I don’t have that fleshed out yet. I get random scenes in my head that bug me until I write them down. So inconsiderate!

Hope you all are enjoying better weather than our gloomy, windy, almost-but-not-quite spring.

Keep on writing!

Nyx–plotting??


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A taste of … summer? And Musing revisions #amrevising

One day. We are due to experience ONE day of realistic spring/summer temps close to 70 degrees F–well, half a day before the storms move in–before going back to the almost-spring temps in the 40s.

I am so DONE with this not-quite-spring. We’re three-quarters of the way through April; we are usually starting to debate prepping the garden about now. I never plant before mid-May, because in MN we can get a freeze or frost up through Memorial Day. And there was this big bright ball of fire in the sky a couple days ago. Rumor has it they call it “sun”. I went for a short walk, because even though the nice, bright light said, “hey, it’s beautiful out here”, the breeze said, “don’t get your hopes up, it’s not going to get very warm.”

It’s been so gloomy the past freaking month I pulled out my SAD therapy light again, after I thought I was done needing it for the season.

“It’s a good excuse to work on your manuscript, love.”

I can’t help rolling my eyes. My Muse drops into the other recliner in the alcove. Today his wardrobe includes navy sweatpants and a long-sleeved T-shirt with a vintage AC/DC album cover on the front. Hell, there’s probably a list of concert appearances from the 80s on the back.

“Yeah. I read through my agent’s comments on Book 2. I have to let them simmer a bit before I come up with any sort of revision plan. That doesn’t mean I like the crap-ass weather we’ve been having. I’d feel a lot better if, you know, it almost felt like spring instead of … whatever this gray, wet, cool, hella-windy stuff is.” Heck, those few days in Albuquerque were the days where I saw the sun for more than a couple hours.

“Besides, if the weather was half-way decent, I could at least go for a walk to help me with my revision plan.”

He flips out the footrest and settles in. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

“No, of course not. But you know as well as I do that walking helps me brainstorm. And when you walk with me, it’s even better.” I just have to remember to bring along something to write down the great ideas I get. I’ll have to check that out on my Apple watch; I think it has a record function.

“I always walk with you, love.”

Actually, he doesn’t, but I don’t need to call him on it. Sometimes he leaves me alone on purpose. I know this because those are the times I do nothing but zone out. I think they call it “walking meditation”.

“Whatever. You need to help me figure out how to strengthen a couple characters in Book 2, and who I need to axe. I have an idea, but I’m not sure how to fix the hole if I get rid of him.”

“Well, get out the brainstorming bucket, love. We’ve got a whole wall we can throw at to see what sticks.”

Hope everyone is doing well, especially those in the path of whatever this week’s flavor of extreme weather is. Which reminds me, I have a friend in AZ I need to check in on.

Stay Calm, beg Spring to stick around, and Keep Writing!


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Doing the shuffle #amediting #amrevising

While I’m waiting to hear back from a couple beta readers (heck, I even drafted another couple readers because my current ones have gone AWOL on me–you know who you are), I’ve been working on my police procedural, the one I set aside for a few years while I shifted my attention to Murder in Plane Sight (shameless plug 🙂 ).

I read it for the first time in years, and now see the problem with it–well, one of a few problems, anyway. It’s not balanced. The first half is mostly character development, while the action happens in the second half. Not the way to construct a mystery (hey, I think I’ve learned a few things over the past few years! 😀 )

So, I wrote each scene on an index card, and used those to rearrange the scenes. Some people do it completely on the computer, and I started doing that with Scrivener since I write in Scrivener, but I think it’s easier to actually shuffle physical cards around. I also think it’s easier to see more of the whole picture–dining room table vs laptop screen.

So I played “shuffle the scenes” this week, and I think I’ve got things balanced now. Now comes the fun part: sure, I rearranged the scenes, but each scene has to be revised so it fits into the new flow. Luckily the first few scenes and the last few scenes are fine as they are. It’s just the middle 50% that needs work. Kinda like all those books between the bookends that you want to rearrange by title, author, spine color, or size. Okay, not really, but you get the gist.

I’ve got my first in-person event next weekend–yippee! I’ll get to see some of my fellow Sisters in Crime buddies in real life! I did see some of them in person last fall, but I’ll see a few others outside of a small rectangle on a screen. And my sister-in-law is part of the group that organized the writers’ festival, so I’ll get to see her for the first time in a couple years as well.

And the Solstice is only a week away! Tough to tell with the below-zero wind chills yesterday. I think the “feels like” temp was somewhere south of zero despite the air temp being in the low 20s. Sure felt like January. Crossing my fingers that Old Man Winter is ready to call it a season and let Spring get her fingers in things. I am so done with winter; this year has been colder than average since Jan.

It’s tax season–ugh, and my class is back in session–boo, and the dust bunnies are starting to follow me around the house, so I’ve got a few things on my list, not to mention a couple more books to read before Left Coast Crime in April. I am so ready for my personal writing retreat in May!

Hope you are all staying warm (for those in the way of winter storms and this lovely cold we’ve been enjoying here in MN). Happy St. Patrick’s Day early! Keep on writing!

Nap time for Zoey


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Backstory? #amwriting #amrevising

Finished my latest revision of Book 2! Woo-hoo! Sent it off to the second batch of beta readers and crossing my fingers. Here’s hoping it’s well-received.

Next on my list of projects is a return to my police procedural, which has been taking a vacation from revision for over a year. I went back to it a few months ago when I was waiting for Book 2 feedback from the first round of beta readers.

And that’s when I discovered the police procedural was off-balance: too much character development in the first half, not enough mystery. So, I was in the process of reorganizing it when I got the feedback for Book 2. Procedural aside, Book 2 on the revision desk. Now I’m back to the procedural.

So, not only does my police procedural need reorganization, it needs more in the backstory department. Not because the backstory is super vital, but because it can clarify things about the main character. Which, I guess, really is vital.

The typical advice is to avoid infodumps and sprinkle bits about the character’s backstory through the book. Some say prologues are the place to put backstory, such as “back when s/he was a kid this happened”, like the bit about Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed during a mugging, and that explains why he became Batman.

Which I thought about for this book, except the main character can do a number of things that are tough to explain to the reader. Think extrasensory abilities like ESP or clairvoyance, but not. Well, sort of. Actually, it’s more like, um, well, what she does is sort of easy to explain, but tough to really “get”.

So, how does one avoid infodumps? A prologue, sure, but you can only put so much stuff into a prologue until it’s not a prologue any more, it’s an infodump. So, what about short scenes, like flashbacks, that show what happened in the past that explains what she does in the present? Flashbacks are tricky, too, because you don’t want to confuse the reader too much, but …

Anyway, you get the idea. So this past week I floated a couple of what I call “vignettes” past my Writing Sisters, who have read my police procedural. The responses were incredibly helpful (I love my Writing Sisters!), and I did get reassurance that the vignette idea, and adding them to the beginning of chapters in which the MC does something that’s clarified by the intro scene, should work just fine.

Not every chapter would have an introductory vignette, but if a handful have them, it would help the reader understand the character more, since a lot of formative stuff happened years before the book takes place. And there’s enough formative stuff that sprinkling it through the story isn’t very effective.

I think sprinkling more “conventional” backstory through a book works well because people have common experiences and can relate more easily. Some backstory is pretty straightforward even if it isn’t something like dealing with bullies or losing a loved one. It’s when the backstory is more unique that it gets tricky. Because it’s unconventional, it takes more explanation to make it clear to the reader. More explanation makes sprinkling backstory more challenging because of the balance between giving the reader the information and maintaining the pacing.

Anyway, that’s on my list until Book 2 feedback comes in. And homework. Ugh. It’s like being back in high school English again. At least we aren’t diagramming sentences (I never even did that in school). And damn it, I have to get my newsletter going again. All the things it takes to be a successful author, if success means selling books–which it usually does, right? And that’s not even counting the social media stuff I’m avoiding but I should be doing.

Dang, selling books is almost as hard as writing them. Heck, I think writing them might be easier than selling them 😮

Keep calm and Write On!

Nyx