Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Busy … But at least it’s SPRING! #amreading #mystery #newrelease


It’s been a busy week+ since my book release. Whew! And bonus: I got my books the day some of my readers (the ones who pre-ordered) got their books. There is something about holding the book in your hand to make it real.

Then there’s the whole “deer in the headlights” thing when the first person asks you to sign their copy of your book. First it’s: OMG, seriously? Then it’s: What the hell am I supposed to write?

And my awesome blog release tour hosts have helped spread the word since last week. If you haven’t stopped by their sites, here’s the list again:

March 13: D. L. Finn
March 18: Betsy Kerekes
March 19: Staci Troilo Audiobook Release Day!
March 21: Joan Hall
March 25: Jacqui Murray
March 27: Mae Clair

I still stare at my book in a state of near-disbelief. It’s been a bit scary, because as an introvert, I’ve always tried to stay in the wings. It’s much quieter there. The problem with that, though, is it doesn’t encourage people to buy your books, which is kind of the point.

It’s real!

“Congratulations, love.”

I start to turn, but my Muse stops me. Instead he picks up a book as he drops an arm around my shoulders and pulls me into him. Today he smells like rain with a trace of earthy loam. Spring.

“It looks good, love.”

“Thanks. People seem to like it.”

He gives me a squeeze before letting me go. “And they should. It took you long enough.”

Do I detect a hint of scolding in his voice? “Hey, there are writers out there whose first book took twice as long as mine did.”

He sets the book back in the box with the others. “Uh-huh. There are also a lot of writers out there whose first book took half the time.”

“Your point?”

His eyes narrow. “Your second book better not take as long as this one did.”

I manage–barely–to avoid rolling my eyes. “I know, I know. And you know I’ve been trying to write Book 2 ever since I signed the contract with my publisher.” Seven rough drafts so far. Seven! I’m working on the timeline again. I need to start rough draft number 8. “But you know I also have other stuff to do in the next month.” Not the least of which is spring cleaning. Ugh. We host Easter for my husband’s side of the family. And taxes. And I need to finalize my session handouts for the upcoming Writers’ Institute.

There is still time to register! Click here!

My Muse rests a hip on my desk, arms crossed. “Are you going to work with me more this time?”

“Are you going to stick around instead of jaunting off to who-knows-where?” I counter.

“Are you going to sit your ass down behind the keyboard and write?” he counter-counters. “I’ve been here, love, but I can only stir up the creative energies for you. You have to write it.”

I can’t hold back this time. I roll my eyes. “Yes. I have been sitting …”

He waves a finger, cutting me off. “No. I mean, sitting behind the keyboard, no distractions. You have to re-establish your writing spot. You know it. I insist on it.” He stands, towers over me. “Got it?

“Yes. I’ve got it.”

He’s right, and since I haven’t done anything to set up my son’s room as a writing office yet, I’ll have to go back to my old spot.

Busy schedule coming up. I know there are a few other blog release tours going on, and I’m trying to keep up with them; I apologize that I’m so far behind. I’ve also got a few reviews to write, and some other promo stuff to experiment with.

And SPRING! Woo-hoo! Crossing my fingers we don’t have any late-season snowstorms like we did last year. This year looks promising, except for all the flooding. We are fine where we’re at, and I can get to work without a problem, so it’s good. I should start some kale and maybe a few tomatoes and peppers this weekend, so they have time to get big enough for the garden. I’ll keep you posted.

Have a wonderful weekend!

What? I can sit here.


What a rush!


Welcome to WI 2016, Laurie Scheer

Finishing up Day 2 of the Writers’ Institute. Whew! Two days of writing workshops and pitching to agents. Two days with over a hundred other writers, teachers, and mentors.

What a rush!

Writing is so often a solitary pursuit; sometimes we forget we need contact with other people. There’s nothing quite like gathering with so many who like writing as much as you do.

A lot (most?) of us are introverts, needing to get away from people to focus and recharge, so being in this sort of a crowd can be disorienting and just plain wearing on nerves. But there are so many interesting people to meet! I met a nanny who is writing children’s books, a horror writer whose project sounded positively bone-chilling, a journalist looking to branch into creative non-fiction, and a screenwriter who is going to turn a screenplay into a novel.


Keynote – Hank Phillippi Ryan

The keynote speakers were fabulous. On Day 1, writer Dan Blank from WeGrowMedia presented advice on how to find an audience for your book utilizing everything from Goodreads to Amazon review lists of comparable books (books similar to yours). That audience can be a source for beta readers or ARC reviewers.

On Day 2  we heard from another keynote speaker, Hank Phillippi Ryan, about things she wished someone had told her about writing, like how subjective the business is. Even though the editor may love the book, it doesn’t mean the publisher will take it. Most importantly, and a theme we heard throughout the conference, it takes persistence to succeed in this business.

So many workshops on everything from voice (great one!)  by Josie Brown, to perfecting the first line by Ms Ryan, to blogging by Laurie Buchanan. Critique sessions with fabulous UW instructors were widely available, and a Writing Doctor (Kevin Mullen, UW-Madison alum) held office hours each day, nearly all day. Too many great workshops, not enough time!

If mixing and socializing is your thing, we had a mixer on Day 1, and tonight the mix spotlights a live literary event (needless to say, information overload demanded I rest my mushy brain with a beer and a burger at the Old Fashioned (BTW, wonderful food, and an awesome bartender!))

agent panel

(all together now: Julie takes lousy pics) The Agent panel

When our goal is to be published, agents are the means to the end (with some exceptions for small presses). So many great agents gave bits of advice on the agent panel before offering Q&A sessions and taking pitches. Practice sessions with UW instructors were also available to help writers hone their pitch.

Tomorrow is the last day, and one of my writing sisters is on the panel of success stories, so I’ll head back to glean just a bit more information and absorb another round of writing energy before returning home.

Wow, what a weekend!

A huge shout-out to Laurie Scheer and her tireless assistant, Laura Kahl, for yet another awesome Writers’ Institute.

Again, if you ever get a chance to go to a writing conference, do it. You never know who you might meet, what connections you might forge, or lessons you might learn. It’s a great place to meet other writers with whom you might organize a critique group or learn about a writing circle near you.

You’ll never know if you don’t go.


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Of Writers, Writing, and their Muses

sambuchino 1

I attended the Minnesota Writing Workshop yesterday, a 9-to-5 event with what another workshop attendee described as “four keynotes” by Chuck Sambuchino, plus a critique panel for first novel pages. What a great event! As I recommended to a few fellow writers I met there, workshops and conferences are golden for inspiration and meeting other writers who are just as excited as you are about writing.

There are so many great things about attending a workshop or conference like this, especially if the event is big enough to attract writers you’ve never met before (as opposed to a regular group or club that offers extra time or a guest speaker on occasion). Contrary to popular belief, writers are fun people! We love to talk about writing, about our projects, and about each other’s projects. Everyone is there to learn and get inspired. We love to meet other writers, learn what they do, compare notes on how they do it, and get ideas we might want to use in our own quest to become published.

I met some wonderful writers, had lunch in an Irish pub (the fish and chips at Liffey’s are tasty), and listened in awe as Chuck Sambuchino spoke for almost the entire time. I mean, how many people can speak for almost seven hours straight without going hoarse and still garner laughter at the tail end of the day? We did have an hour and a half lunch break, during which time our little group of just-acquainted writers learned about inspiration and reasons to write that go beyond letting the characters out of our head. One fellow writer had a touching story about the children’s book she wrote for her brother. Gorgeous book, beautiful illustrations, and a story that touched me in particular because of what is happening in my real life at this point. Another fellow writer works for an organization that strives to provide safe shelter to orphans worldwide.

Whenever I’ve been in a group of writers, either a couple hundred at the UW Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI, or with my Writing Sisters, there a creative energy that coalesces, as though it isn’t just the writers of the group but their Muses as well that attend the gathering. I find myself longing to sit down and write after these events before that creative energy dissipates. My Writing Sisters have a particularly powerful effect in that department. It’s like the very act of coming together to cultivate our craft charges or recharges our muses.

So much great information was presented yesterday that I found myself just trying to keep up with the info dump. Now to wrangle all that great creative energy into my writing. If any writers out there want to recharge and learn something to boot, writing workshops and conferences are an excellent venue. I wish I could attend more of them, but the dollar only stretches so far. Penciling in next year’s Writers’ Institute in Madison on my calendar!

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Anticipating the MN Writing Workshop

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a writing workshop in St. Paul sponsored by the Twin Cities chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’ve long wanted to become more involved with SinC, but real life and my determination to actually focus on my writing on a regular basis, not to mention I live over an hour away from the Twin Cities, have nixed that idea. At least for now. Oh, and we can’t forget to take MN winter driving into account.

For anyone out there who is working on becoming a better, and published, writer, I highly recommend attending as many writing workshops and conferences as your time and budget allow. Living in MN has limitations–many of the larger writing conferences and workshops are just too far away (think east or west coast). The costs for many of the workshops and conferences are also budget-straining. Boy, I’d so love to go to any of the BIG writing conferences in Hawaii or Seattle, you know, the ones that have writers like Patricia Cornwall, Terry Brooks, or David Baldacci as guest speakers. On my list when I find an extra five grand lying around.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve found gatherings of writers bring so many muses to life it’s almost surreal. Inspiration abounds in these workshops and conferences, and I always find myself wanting to hide away to write and build a writing platform and design a book cover and more before the creative energy ebbs. Conferences and workshops are also opportunities to meet fellow writers, some of whom may be just the person you need to read through your manuscript, supply a blurb, or just commiserate when you get your 50th form rejection.

Pitching to an agent and thus bypassing the whole query letter thing is another opportunity offered at many workshops and conferences. If you’ve never written a query letter, believe me when I say it’s harder than writing a novel. I have writing friends who’ve had little success with query letters, but great response from in-person pitches. There is the anxiety factor of explaining your book in such an enticing way–in 90 seconds or less–so as to inspire the agent to ask for more, but I’m willing to deal with that over trying to write yet another query for my book.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Twitter feed: #minnww  if you want to check in.