Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Musing craft #amrevising

I open the back door to my writing office, fresh off a walk. I find walking and thinking about whatever I’m writing, whether brainstorming a new story or plotline or pondering revisions, go together well. Even if I might look a little loony if someone decided to watch me walk and talk things through.

“Well, it’s about time you came back, love.” My Muse leans on my desk, sweating bottle of water in hand.

I finish toeing off my shoes before I look up. Oh. My. His tank top–wait, muscle shirt–shows off his sculpted shoulders and biceps. The cargo shorts don’t detract at all–trust me. And he’s got that five o’clock shadow thing going, just at that rougish stage.

He raises a brow.

Oh, yeah. “You know where I was. And I didn’t see you anywhere helping figure out how to strengthen my supporting characters in Book 2.”

“And why do you suppose they aren’t quite ‘there’ yet?”

I make my way past him to the mini-fridge to grab my own water. “I don’t know. That’s the problem. It’s like I want them to be in the background, but they can’t be. Shouldn’t be. They should seem just as real as my MCs.”

“Okay, so why aren’t they?”

I drop into one of the recliners in the alcove and swallow some cool water. It’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. I thought I rounded them out a bit, but apparently not enough. She made good points, and I can see how their characters are lacking. I’m just not entirely sure how to beef them up.

“Julie?”

“I’m thinking.”

He settles into the other recliner. “You’re thinking too hard.”

I can feel him staring at me. “Stop that.”

“You know how to fix it. You agent made good suggestions.”

“Yes, she did.”

“So? What’s the problem?”

I take another sip of water to stall. What is the problem?

“You know what it is, love. Say it.”

Damn it. “I don’t want them to be the focus of the story.”

“Not quite. Try again.”

Fine. “I don’t want them to take attention away from my MC.”

He smiles, the divot in his chin deepening. “She has to share the stage, love. It’s okay for other characters to figure out the mystery.”

“Not if the story belongs to my MC.”

A momentary frown crosses his face. “You’re right, not figure it out, but they have a stake in solving the mystery.”

“They do, but their actions are limited to pushing for answers, not digging around for them. That’s the job of my MCs.”

“Okay, so how can they do more pushing for answers? And remember, they have insights, too.” He finishes his water and tosses the bottle into the “Recycle” bin. “I can bring them over for a chat.”

“Not necessary.” I consider what he’s saying. They have insights …

My Muse grins. “There you go, love. I knew you’d figure it out.”

“Maybe, but will that be enough to fix the character issues? If they push to poke around for themselves, but my MC discourages them–to keep them safe?”

“You won’t know until you try.”

That’s the struggle, isn’t it? This is my first “book 2” (I do have a sequel drafted for my police procedural, but that’s a different formula because the MCs jobs are to solve the crime). I think part of the challenge is keeping in mind that readers may not have read the first book, so as the author you have to introduce the MCs again, and let the reader know the MCs nuances and stuff. I think that’s part of the reason I resist giving the secondary characters more of the story. I want the story to be about my MCs, but they aren’t in the story by themselves; the other characters need to be just as real to the readers, not just character actors from General Casting.

So, back to the revision board. And maybe my Muse has the right idea about bringing the characters over for a chat. We’ll see. I’ve got to look through my agent’s feedback in depth this weekend (I’ve already skimmed it) and keep this convo with my Muse in mind.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


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Getting back to the routine #amrevising #amplotting

I’ve been back home from my glorious writing reunion retreat with my Writing Sisters, and falling back into the routine. You know, the coffee, work, procrastinate, write, chill, rinse and repeat.

Same ol’, but predictable, and comforting in the “routine-ness” of it. Although, there are parts of a retreat I would love to translate to my everyday–no TV (well, no news other than the weather and the “feel good” stories about people being nice and helping people or animals), plotting help, and time to just write.

Escaping the everyday routine is something everyone needs to do on a regular basis. Seriously. It reminds a person that routines are good for keeping the regular tasks–like working or cleaning–in the pipeline, but it sure is nice to escape routine and just do the stuff that doesn’t always fit into the everyday (even if it should).

I once spoke to a well-known writer (William Kent Kreuger) during one of those out-of-the-daily-routine events (Left Coast Crime). He had his computer at a small table in a corner and was typing away. I asked him about it. He said he writes every single morning, whether he’s at home or on the road.

That’s my dream, to set a routine that even hitting the road won’t break. I might have to wait, though, simply because real life doesn’t think I should be that scheduled. It works much better during the winter when the garden isn’t a factor; I usually dedicate time in the evenings to writing. And I’ll bet it’ll work even better after I retire (if I can retire by then).

Hmm. When I started this post, my thought was to talk about plotting, and how valuable my Writing Sisters are when it comes to helping with story ideas. They managed to expand my long short story into a novella, and got me started plotting for Book 3. *looks around for Muse* I’ll have to save that for next week, I think.

Speaking of routines and how rude real life is when it comes to incorporating (shoehorning?) my creative endeavors into the time not occupied by necessities like work and sleep (and cleaning and meals and gardening), those out-of-the-routine events don’t escape blame. All those things we writers do to get our name out there, like conventions (Bouchercon, I’m looking at you) and book fairs and other author events, do their part in tossing rocks in the gears. I’m reading books from the other authors on my panel for B’con because I’m a backup moderator. I probably won’t need to step in, but just in case, I’m prepping.

They say “schedule a time that is sacrosanct for your writing.” Yeah, and tell all the rest of the stuff that HAS to get done to come back later. This weekend means cleaning (gawd, I’ve put it off long enough), two more batches of pickles, and finishing up a panelist’s book and starting another, because B’con is a mere 4 weeks away.

So looking forward to my personal writing retreat in October! And NaNo. My legit reasons to shun all the rest of the “stuff that needs to get done” and just focus on writing.

Take time to focus on writing, but also give yourself some leeway–real life doesn’t stop, and sometimes (often) it’s too important at the time to set aside (like family, job, cleaning (there is a point when you just have to do it), sleep). Do what you can when you can, and be okay with that. You may not release two novels a year (or even one novel in two years), but that time for writing is valuable.

Now to follow my own suggestion.

Happy Writing!

Tibbers and Nyx looking like they’re pretending to be innocent (but we know better 🙂 )


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Summer of a-Muse-ment #amrevising #amreading

“You’re hovering.”

“I’m here, love.”

I push back from my desk in my writing office and narrowly miss my Muse’s toes. “I know, and I appreciate it, but you are hovering.” I plant a hand on his solid–oh, yes, broad and solid–chest and push him back so I don’t crack my head into his chin. “Give me some space. Sheesh. Why are you hovering?”

A crooked grin eases onto his face, giving his dimple an excuse to appear. “Because you are riding a surge of creative energy, and I want to make sure you take advantage of it.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk. Today he’s got a beach bum theme going: blue board shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top sporting a hand flashing the universal “hang loose” sign. He smells like the ocean, sand and sun and coconut tanning lotion. His skin is burnished bronze, and his hair is sun-bleached on the edges. I suspect he spent some time enjoying wind and waves while I visited with my family last weekend.

“Uh-huh.” I brush past him and try to ignore the rising temperature of the room. Or is it just me? Or maybe it’s the upper-eighties temps outside–naw, the air conditioning is working pretty well. Must be one of those fabled “hot flashes”.

Yeah, let’s go with that. Wait, that means I’m, ah, …

My Muse chuckles, a deep, baritone rumbling that raises the room temp even more. “You’re only as old as you think you are.”

Dang, it’s hot in here. I focus my next steps on crossing the office to grab water from the mini-fridge. The fewer times I stumble when he’s around, the less chance his ego has to take center stage. “I want to get my revisions done and sent back to my agent by the end of the month, before the reunion.”

“You’ll have them done,” he assures me, “unless you get distracted.”

I swallow a quarter of the bottle of water before I turn toward him. “I’m really trying not to get distracted, but we have my hubby’s nephew’s wedding out in Virginia at the end of September, and oh, my god, trying to figure out the best”–and cheapest–“way to get there and back is like falling into an internet rabbit hole.” I think we spent three hours last night (on top of the three hours I spent last week putting together a spreadsheet of flights and prices for Hubs (because he likes to see everything written down; I’ve known him for over 30 years, so yes, I spent the time)) trying to determine the best way to get around out there. The Metro Lines? Do we have to rent a car? Which Metro stations have parking? When should we sightsee? When are we flying out? Which airport is better? Oh. My. Gawd. This is one reason I hate traveling.

“That’s not your only distraction, love. You have creative distractions.”

“No thanks to you.” It seems I’m riding a surge of creative energy right now, but I have to put any thoughts about next projects aside until my revision is done, which is frustrating in a lot of ways. Man, I need a writing sabbatical in a little cabin in the woods.

“You’re welcome.”

“Wait, you’re warning me about creative distractions pulling me away from my revision, and you’re smug about it?”

His grin widens. “You are receptive right now, so yes.”

“Well, put a pin in it for now. I have stuff to do this weekend, like clean and make pickles.” I hate the thought of breaking away from my writing at this point, but real life has to be handled when it has to be handled, and the house won’t clean itself (damn!).

He saunters to me and rests a hand on my shoulder, the scent of coconut tanning lotion surrounding us. “I’ll still be here, love.”

“Well, don’t hover.”

“I can’t make any promises.”

Uff-da. The worst thing about having all the creative energy is not being able to sit down and take advantage of it. Hope you are all staying cool and able to take advantage of your own creative energies.

Happy Writing!


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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??