Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


25 Comments

So close now #mystery #aviation #release #amreading

4Paperback-Book-T 96 dpi

The countdown continues! I’m both excited and terrified at the prospect of my first book going out into the world. The inevitable insecurities are careening through my mind:

  • OMG, other people will read my book!
  • Oh. My. God. Other people will read my book ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
  • Will they like it? Will anybody like it?
  • All those people at work who already bought or will buy my book–what if they don’t like it? Will they still talk to me? (yes, I know it’s a totally unfounded fear ๐Ÿ™‚ )
  • What if nobody likes it?
  • How am I supposed to write book 2 and market this one at the same time?
  • How do I contact bookstores to have them carry my book?
  • Where is my press kit? My publisher said they were putting one together.
  • What about a newsletter? Oh man, I should have put a newsletter together already.
  • When will I get my printed books? Will I get them by the first weekend in April for the Writers’ Institute?ย  *unintelligible grumbling*
  • I have to schedule author events. When? Where?
  • This is scary. What was I thinking?
  • I’ll be fine. I mean, every author has to learn the ropes, right?
  • Seriously, things will work out.
  • Damn snowstorm. A-frickin’-gain. When will it end????

Hoo-boy. I know all writers go through this with their first book. Heck, probably with every book. Deep breath. Everything will be fine.

“Relax, love.”

My Muse drops a stuffed duffel bag beside the back door to my office. His blond hair is sunbleached, a counter to the bronze of his skin. His well-worn jeans and hiking shoes don’t quite work with the muscle shirt emblazoned with a surfing gator and “Spring Break” in eye-searing orange and green. He hangs a red hoodie on the coat tree.

“Where the hell have you been?”

He flashes his crooked grin. The skin around his eyes is noticably lighter than the rest of his face. “Enjoying some sunshine.” He makes a show of opening the door once again and looking over the yard. “And sand. You know, not that cold white stuff outside.” He shuts the door. “You do realize the equinox is in two weeks.”

“Your point?” We’re supposed to get another 6-9 inches of snow this weekend. Ugh. “Don’t you have some pull with Mother Nature? I mean, you being a Muse with a capital ‘M’ and all?”

He sits on a corner of my desk. “Naw. Besides, she’s got her own agenda. Last I talked to her, she was planning, and I quote–” he makes air quotes–“‘weather experiments’.”

Gulp. “Um, why don’t you tell her she can send Spring on stage. I think Winter needs a vacation.” Although this week was the first week in over a month where it didn’t snow, like, every other day.

He combs his short hair back with his fingers and chuckles. “Yeah, well, she can be really sweet, but when she’s in a mood …” He shrugs. “Anyway. Are you ready for the release?”

“You mean besides not being able to actually hold my brand-new novel until who knows when? Oh, and no press kit yet.”

“You got your website going, though.”

“Yes! Finally! And I linked it to my blog. And my blog has a link to my website.” About flipping time, too. One would think someone who worked in IT for as long as I did would have been able to finish it sooner.

“Maybe so, but you never did a lot with web stuff. You did more basic programming and regular troubleshooting.” He loops an arm around my shoulders. “You did fine, love. Now, let’s see what kind of wine and chocolate you stocked up on. I might have to make a run.”

I have to say I’m glad he’s back, even if I’m not writing just now. I have workshop handouts to finish, and blog reading to catch up on. Sorry I’m so far behind, but I’ll catch up.

You can find the link to my website at the top of the page, or right here:ย  Julie’s Author Website. It’s nothing fancy; I’m taking Dan Blank’s advice about keeping it simple. I’ll have to do some tweaks once the book comes out, and make sure I add the audiobook when it comes out on March 19, one week after the book.

I’ll be hunkering down during yet another snowstorm. Then rain next week. As if the 6-9 inches over the weekend won’t be enough.

Stay tuned! Stay safe! And keep writing!

zoey1

Advertisements


31 Comments

The excitement is real #mystery

So, last week we got about an inch and a half of snow on Saturday, and 40-50 mile an hour winds (blizzard) on Sunday.

What does an inch and a half of snow look like after a day of blizzard winds?

Glad you asked.

snowbank
The building beyond, that you can just see over the top of the drift, is a metal pole barn we call the machine shed, because that is where the previous owners would keep farm equipment. The mound in the middle of the drift is our brush pile/burn pile. Overall, I would estimate the drift is more than 8 feet high. The distance between the grove and the silo is probably 60 feet or more.

Sooo tired of snow. On the bright side, it’s not supposed to snow again for a few days. I know; after the past month, I’m not sure I believe it either. ๐Ÿ™‚

Promo stuff. Ugh. I did order some bookmarks and flyers/posters. They didn’t turn out too bad.

swag

Next up is my author website. I decided to leave the blog alone, and just link it to the author site (and vice versa). That way I don’t have to work the blog into the site. I have to keep reminding myself to keep it simple.

At this point I’m wondering when I’ll get a chance to write again. Seriously. But once everything is set up, it should be pretty easy to maintain. Especially if I don’t have to monkey around with the blog.

I have a workshop for my Sisters in Crime chapter to work on. It’s scheduled for Saturday, March 9, which so far is forecast to be snow-free.

Please don’t let it snow. Heck, as long as you’re at it, how about a whole week or two without snow? The solstice is three weeks away!

Daughter and I are going to see the new How to Train Your Dragon movie tonight. I don’t go out to see movies very often; I usually wait until they come out on DVD and get them from the library, but there are a select few I’ll see in the theater. Can’t wait! (Hopefully we can still get out the driveway; we got 2 1/2 inches of new fluffy snow. We should be fine as long as the winds don’t kick it around too much).

Have a great weekend, all!

zoey on chair

My chair. Seriously. Go sit somewhere else.

 


30 Comments

Clueless, but trying

The back door of my writing office opens, letting in a blast of crisp winter air and a flurry of snowflakes. Despite my sweats over long johns–my winter casual wear in the house–I shiver. “Shut that. It’s cold.”

My Muse closes the door and stomps snowy boots on the doormat. He unwraps a red knit scarf from around his neck and pulls off a matching stocking cap before he tugs off his ski gloves. “Brisk. Actually, love, it’s refreshing.” He starts to cross the office, his boots thudding on the floor.

“Hey, stop. Don’t get snow all over my office. Take your boots off.”

An eyebrow arches high before he complies, leaving his boots on the mat as he peels off his leather bomber jacket. He shoves the gloves in his hat and his hat into a sleeve of the jacket before hanging it and the scarf on the coat tree beside the door.

“Nice of you to come back during the snowstorm.” I lean back in my chair and feast my eyes — er, take inventory of my Muse. A cream-colored fisherman’s sweater–looks toasty warm–and jeans, with thermal socks–wait. “Minions? Where did you find those?”

minion socks He follows my gaze to his feet. “What?”

“Never mind.” I return my attention to my computer.

My Muse drags a chair beside me. “I see you haven’t taken down your Christmas lights.”

The huge whiteboard on the wall is a perfect mount for my lights, which I draped around the perimeter. Another string of lights surrounds the door trim on both doors. “I like Christmas lights. If I wait long enough, I can call them Easter lights.” christmas lights

He groans. “Uh-huh. What are you working on, because I know for a fact that isn’t your WIP.”

I frown at the screen. “Author website. And newsletter. And cover reveal posts, although at this point I’ll just bypass the reveal and plan for the release.” *grumble*

My Muse rests his arm across the back of my chair, which means he’s leaning close. Really close. And that sweater is toasty warm if the heat radiating from him is any indication. “Aaand,” he indicated the screen, “this is which?”

“Website.”

“So what’s the problem? You used to be in IT.”

“But I never built websites. I can do it, it’s just a matter of deciding how to do it. I mean, what it should look like.” Then there’s the time suck of digging around the internet for a free theme that strikes me as the right sort to use.

Ever go on Pintrest? Yep, like that.

“Hey, you’re my Muse, so muse me. C’mon, I’m drawing a blank here. I can’t decide whether to tweak a ready-made template or create a new one. Or what it should look like. I have a landing page that basically says I’m not finished with the site yet, but I don’t know where to go from there.”

His chuckle rolls out from deep in his chest. I know, because at this range, I can feel it. “You’ll figure it out, love. You always do.”

“Fat lot of help you are.”

He looks at me, his blue eyes sparkling–with something like humor, I suspect. “You do realize I am here to help, right? With the whole channeling creative energy thing. Besides, you’re making it too complicated.”

“How so?”

“Focus on the books you know will be coming out first. You can always adjust from there.”

“So, what you’re saying is, leave my police procedural out of the equation for now.” I’m sure he’s right. They are on the back burner right now in favor of my book coming out, Book 2, and another mystery on my list to write. Well, redraft, which seems to be my thing these days.

“What is the saying? Keep it simple? Do that.”

Geez, nothing like being vague. “That’s the plan.”

So that’s my plan over the weekend, the first whole weekend since the kids went back to school. I really should clean. And take down my Christmas lights. And work on the workshop I’m doing in March for our local Sisters in Crime chapter. And I haven’t gone through any seed catalogs yet. And I’m way behind reading blog posts. And …

Anyway. It’s cold and snowy–first real snow of 2019, although I’ve been enjoying our mild winter so far.

Happy Writing!

zoey nap


28 Comments

Here come the holidays

Oh boy. Less than two weeks until Christmas. And the solstice.

I think I’m looking forward to the solstice more; the thought of more minutes of daylight per day sounds better than Christmas music on every single radio station all day long.

Kids are home from college for the next month, so the house has suddenly gotten smaller. Funny how that works ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  The week before Christmas (man, do I have all my Christmas shopping done??) will be a blend of work and baking cookies, doing whatever shopping I have left (I better check my list ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ), and trying to fit in some writing. Oh, and the ever-present cleaning, which I neglected all through NaNo, and the past few weeks due to trying my hand at creating FB covers, and blog headers, and twitter posts, etc in preparation for when I get my final cover.

In fact, all I want for Christmas is my cover. (Don’t get me started. I’ll be nudging my publisher on Monday.)

Also, I’ll be jumping into the rest of the fray when it comes to book stuff: email list, newsletter, website, and all the other stuff that goes with it.

So, short post this week, and next week will be a holiday post, so enjoy this time with family, friends, pets, and hey, take some time for yourself. There’s nothing like a quiet walk in the woods to soothe a creative soul. And the hoarfrost we had earlier this week was that quiet sort of beauty.

hoarfrost 1

Hoarfrost in the grove

Have a great week!

 


22 Comments

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 activitiesย 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?


20 Comments

Looking Back–Looking Forward

This weekend is the traditional reflection on the past year, and the look ahead to what’s coming up in the next. Hey, who am I to mess with tradition?

And it’s a ready-made blog post subject so hey, less work, right?

But first:

weather12-30-17wndchll Get a load of that wind chill number, kids. And wow, that dew point! Now, granted, the sun’s not up yet, and we’re within spitting distance of January, but our average temperature for this time of year is closer to 24 degrees (F) than zero. So, we’re under a National Weather Service Wind Chill Warning until sometime on Monday.

Guess what I’m NOT going to be doing this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking back

My writing journey has spanned many years, even more if I count all those years in elementary and high school during which I wrote my very first “never to see the light of day” trunk novel and a lot of teen angsty poetry involving eagles and mountain wilderness.

The most-significant year of my writing journey was 2012, when I took the plunge and attended the week-long Write-By-The-Lake retreat at UW-Madison. There I met not only one of the most wonderful writing teachers, but I also met my Writing Sisters. To this day I marvel at how the planets aligned that summer to put me in the same room with so many skilled writers. We added another great gal to our group a few years ago, and we’re still going strong.

The second most-significant year of my writing journey is this year, 2017. This is the year I signed with my agent, a great writing coach and advocate. She helped me make my book stronger. I signed my first publishing contract. I still can’t really believe it. I suppose reality will kick in when I hear back from my editor–Yikes!

Over the past five years I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’ve made a lot of great writing friends, even though I haven’t met most of them in person. Yet, anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

A takeaway for everyone on a writing journey, no matter if your goal is to be published or to just get your current project done: You’ve moved forward. If you feel that you haven’t gotten anywhere, look back and really see what you’ve done. Every step, from that first idea, to putting pencil to paper (even if it’s electronic), to revising is a step. Every critique you get, every one you give, has the effect of expanding your knowledge of the craft. Have you made progress since last month? Last year? I bet you have, even if it’s just a paragraph describing that incredible apple strudel you had at the local farmer’s market or a poem written after you met your first child/grandchild.

Look at it as progress. Keep moving forward. Some steps are smaller than others, but they are steps, just like on any journey.

Looking forward

This year promises to be full. Uff-da. From everything that goes into getting a book ready for publication to sending my youngest off to college, things are going to be busy.

If you are looking for a writing conference, no matter where you are, consider the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. Seriously. And I’m not recommending it just because you’ll get to see me with my Writing Sisters there–we’re doing an author panel. And not because I’m giving a workshop with one of my Sisters, either. Although, both are excellent reasons to come ๐Ÿ˜€ Mark off that second weekend in April, the 12th through the 15th, and come on out to Madison, WI. I’ve met people who’ve come all the way from California and Maine there. It is a spectacular weekend where you can absorb all the creative energy stirred up by so many writers gathering together.

This coming year will also be an experience getting my first book ready for the world, including editing (ugh), blurbs, cover design, and all the other things that go into releasing a book into the world. A grand learning experience for sure.

This year I’m hoping to attend the Writers’ Police Academy for the first time. I hope Lee Lofland, who basically runs it, will still schedule it for 2018. Lee’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer this year, so things are pretty chaotic in his world right now. If you follow his blog, he keeps his followers up on what’s happening. The WPA is the weekend after my Writing Sister reunion, so it’ll be a few busy travel weeks for me, but everything I’ve heard about the WPA sounds like it’ll be well worth it.

How about you? What new adventures are you planning for the coming year? A new project? Polishing a current project? Finishing one? Starting one? Maybe taking a class or going to a writing conference? Resolve to move forward on your writing journey, even if it’s to finally write that story about Great-Aunt Ruth (everyone has a Great-Aunt Ruth, right?) and her roadtrip through South Dakota where she met her first buffalo, saw the Black Hills, and lost almost everything she’d packed into a carrier strapped to the car roof.

It’s a journey. Take a minute to enjoy it. Then get out those seed catalogs and dream about the garden–I mean, what else is there to do when it’s f**king cold outside?

Have a Happy and Safe New Year!

 


13 Comments

The countdown begins

The calendar says July. Seriously? What happened to June? In a week, the summer will be half over.

If we’re into July, that means the reunion with my Writing Sisters is coming up. I can’t wait!

Wait, I’ve got to get 20 pages ready to send around before the reunion. Hoo boy.

One of my fellow bloggers asked about my writing sisters (B, has the baby arrived yet?), and I’ve mentioned them before, so I’ll give y’all a brief history of my fantabulous WS and some ideas on how you can find your own awesome writing group.

It was a dark and stormy night… Er, wait, wrong story. Give me a minute *shuffles papers* Here it is.

It was June, 2012. I’d learned (through my Writers’ Digest subscription, I think) about a writing retreat in Madison, WI, a six-and-a-half hour drive–super close when considering most writing retreats are in the Pacific Northwest, or out East, or someplace like Italy or Iceland (that one’s on my wish list ๐Ÿ˜€ ). I was at the point in my writing journey where I felt ready for something intense, like a week of writing by a lake. I’d heard wonderful things about the novel Master Class at Write-By-The-Lake, so I closed my eyes and jumped in.

There were only six slots, and the instructor had to accept you. Gulp. She did (woo-hoo!). We started slow, as people do when meeting strangers for the first time, and especially when we’re all writers, and the point of the class is to critique each other’s work so we could improve it.

We had different genres (YA, mystery, women’s historical, SF/dystopian), and had taken different journeys to get to where we were. But we clicked. And to seal the deal, one of our classmates invited us over for dinner one evening.

The Writing Sisters were born. Not with the name, not yet, but we had a bond. We had stories to share. And we had fellow writers to encourage us, critique our work, and offer ideas.

After our week was up, we kept in touch. We reunited the following spring at the Writers’ Institute in Madison. And afterward, we started our annual reunion tradition. Every year since that week of writing by the lake we’ve gotten together, even if some couldn’t make it. We’ve had sisters move away and return. We’ve adopted a new sister who fits into the group like she was in our Master Class with the rest of us.

Of the seven of us (not counting our mentor), three have published novels (two through publishing houses, one self-published), one has an agent shopping a manuscript, and three are within spitting distance of getting books published. Our beloved mentor continues to guide us, challenge us, and encourage us.

We’ve become more than a writing group. We’ve become good friends.

I promised some ideas on how you can try to find your own “writing sisters” (or brothers, or whatever). The most important step (in my opinion) is to get out of the house (yes, I know we’re all introverts, but you can do it). Go to conferences, classes, or writing retreats. Meet other writers face to face.ย Talk to them (Yes, I know, the whole introvert thing. Take a deep breath and do it anyway. They’re just as anxious about it as you are.). You can meet other writers to bond with online, but somehow meeting in person seems more “real”.

You won’t always “click” with the writers you meet. In fact, you might cross paths with some you can’t stand to be around. The important thing is to try. Be open and welcoming.

Regular writers’ groups are a good place to meet other writers, but sometimes there isn’t a group near you that “feels” comfortable. I highly recommend going to writing conferences. They are great opportunities not only to learn more about the craft, but also to spend more than an hour or two with fellow writers. Often there are critique group sign-ups with the added benefit of meeting other writers who may end up in your group.

If you can attend a writing retreat, do it. Not only for the time you can focus on actual writing, but for the time you will spend with other writers. A learning/teaching retreat, as opposed to one that offers only time and space to write, encourages you to get to know fellow writers and get a “feel” for how you get along.

At some point, you will run across other writers you can form bonds with. It might be just one or two, or it might be half a dozen. You might meet in real life at the local coffee shop, or you might never see each other in the flesh. In any case, finding one or more writers you can collaborate with, bounce ideas off of, or learn from is valuable.

Another weekend of butt-in-chair-staring-at-the-computer-screen. I think I’ve got a few things figured out, though, so I’m hoping–no, planning more productivity this weekend than I’ve had lately. Bonus: the kids are staying with my SIL until Sunday night. Woo-hoo!

Have a great weekend, and WRITE!