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Posts tagged with: muse

Finding my Muse – in England?

Hopefully you are all logging on to read this fabulous ruby slippered sisterhood blog because of the constantly helpful tips and inspiration and not because your muse is still snuggled in bed. I must admit that earlier this summer, when I began the third book in my Scottish historical romance series, my muse was rebelling like a werewolf being trussed up in 16th century stays – very ugly. Part of the problem definitely had to do with me just having written the first three chapters of a contemporary YA paranormal for my agent to submit. My internal dialogue included words like “massive” and “epic fail”. Not very Henry Tudor.

When I had to shift immediately into the 16th century, my muse was…not amused -LOL! Luckily I had already purchased plane tickets and had planned a trip to England and Scotland where history permeates the very air you breathe. In between packing and mapping my upcoming route through the countryside, I rewrote the first seventy pages of my 16th century WIP three times and still wasn’t happy with it. Ugh! Surely I could convince my muse to wake up and help me in Britain.

My family and I landed in London after an all-night, no-sleep flight and pushed ourselves to stay awake. So despite standing beside the infamous white tower in the Tower of London and listening to French school children learn about Anne Boleyn being beheaded (Je crois que) right where I stood, my muse wasn’t all that impressed. That might have had something to do with my three exhausted, whining kids (ages 6, 12 and 14) who were also dragging behind me.

The White Tower in London

The White Tower in London

On to Hampton Court Palace the next day, my oldest daughter and I were able to run off by ourselves to explore Henry VIII’s kitchen and the incredible gardens. Since I had just finished writing my second Highland Hearts novel, which takes place at Hampton Court, this was thrilling. Luckily I hadn’t gotten anything wrong in the details, but just being there, walking the halls, touching the walls, got my heart pounding and my muse raised an inquisitive brow and put down her iPhone.

That night my family and I made it to our rental cottage on a farm in the lovely Coltswold village of South Cerney. It was like stepping into a fairytale with sheep and horses all around the stone cottage covered with climbing roses where it sat on a duck-filled lake. Walking paths led us through woods and meadows, along canals and under ancient-looking arched stone trestles. Neighbors meandered the footpaths with their dogs and trees bent over creating a shaded vault cathedral of leaves.

Heather & Kids under Coltswold bridge

Heather & Kids under Coltswold bridge

One morning I escaped the family to stroll the footpaths alone.  A light breeze blew, sheep bleated in the pastures and the sun shone in a blue sky above the flittering leaves. The beauty and serenity in the peaceful landscape filled me up until I was smiling outright, a silly grin of pure happiness. I roamed the countryside, watching new varieties of birds and studying the wild flowers and branched bushes trained to twine into fences along the road. And as soon as I got back to the cottage, I made some tea and sat down to write.

I wrote about the details of my new setting, this bit of heaven so d

ifferent from my American suburbia with its snaking sidewalks and rushing minivans. I felt full to bursting to write. My muse was whispering in my ear and willing to put on any period costume I wanted.

4-sisters tree in S. Cerney

4-sisters tree in S. Cerney

What I realized then was that it wasn’t so much that I was in England that I could suddenly write. It was that I was filled up again. With what? Hmmm…I’m not sure exactly. Creativity, peace, inner strength and beauty. Whatever it is, we need it as writers. This is what woos our muse into creating our art.

Think about it. When you are stressed out with time lines, with children or parents or siblings pulling at you, with those gray rocks of annoyance or dread like unpaid bills or illness or loss – you become drained, empty. You have nothing to give, no juice within you to ink your pen, to pour into your manuscript. The well dries out and your muse collapses on a dusty, pebbled road with vultures circling overhead. Quite sad.

Going to London didn’t wake up my muse. Touring Hampton Court gave her a drink. But it wasn’t until I walked in the exquisitely quaint landscape of the Coltswolds that my muse revived, drank fully, and smiled with that twinkle in her eye. The great Tower of London had authentic details that I will remember, but in order for me to write I had to refill my creative well.

Sheep Sheep Everywhere!

Sheep Sheep Everywhere!

I spent the next few days site seeing as well as resting under the magical trees and roses at the farm. We saw Bath, Stonehenge, Avebury, the Harry Potter studios, and Cirencester. But it was the cup of tea on the back patio watching the baby ducks and the cranes on the water that made me want to grab my journal and pen.

This is good news for you and for me. Why? Because this means that you don’t have to travel across the ocean to wake up your grumpy or thirsty muse. Yes, it helps to be immersed in the details you will be writing about, but even with the details, if you don’t fill up the well, nothing will come out on paper. And you can fill up the well here at home. You just need to find some peace, breathe, and explore your world until your muse becomes hydrated again. Here are a few ways I hope to fill my well here at home.

  1. Find new walking paths around my town to take my dog on.
  2. Visit the rose gardens in the town next to me.
  3. Visit the art museum and stare at art until my muse either becomes inspired or swoons from boredom.
  4. Investigate the quaint little shops in my own town while trying not to spend money.
  5. Find a tea shop that serves tea and scones. There’s got to be one around here.
  6. Make tea each day in my own tea pot at home and enjoy a biscuit with it.
  7. Sit on my screened porch and watch the birds swoop or thunderstorms roll in.
  8. Go camping or hiking or to the beach.
  9. Lay on a blanket under the oak in my backyard (with heavy clothes on to keep the mosquitos from eating me alive).
  10. Lay on that same blanket with my hubby watching the stars (nudge, nudge, say no more ; )

The next time you’ve lost touch with your muse, don’t feel like you have to travel the world looking for her. If she’s coughing up dust balls there are ways to revive her right in your own little corner of the globe. Fill yourself up. Only then will you have the creative juice to fill pages with your words.

What are some ways you wake up your muse?

Ruby Release: Finding Her Rhythm by Dani Wade

One of the joys of my Indie-publishing endeavors is being able to write a book how it wants to be written– let the characters lead me and follow them without restraints (or into restraints, if that’s where they want to go). My editors have led my Harlequin books in great directions, strengthening them and my skills. But there are just certain things Harlequin books don’t do. So Indie publishing lets me explore different aspects of my creativity.

In this case, I was able to follow the leading of my hero – my rock star hero.

Danielle_FindingHer

When I first envisionsed Michael Korvello, little voices nagged at me. There’s a long-held rumor that editors don’t want Rock Stars. They aren’t popular enough. But still he hung around – that bad boy, brooding rocker attracted to the anti-thesis of his high profile lifestyle, his nanny.

I just couldn’t get him out of my mind, and before long, despite the push and pull of my first print release and new proposals, I had the full-blown story of a man who was lonely but afraid of revealing his true nature. And a woman so battered by life that trust had been all but obliterated – especially for a first rate performer.

So I chose to follow my characters and discovered a world beneath a world. The performer who wants to be seen and loved as a real man. A family who misses him. A woman who learns to trust him to protect her. A brother who teases and torments him, but who always has his back – on and off the road.

They took me on a journey and I enjoyed every minute! (Well, until I reached revisions.) A journey of a family trying to find each other again, and a man hell bent on using his sexual talents to teach a woman everything that she’s capable of, and everything they can be together.

So let’s celebrate those fun journeys we get to take when we follow wherever our characters lead! Share the last “fun” discovery you made about your book/characters while writing!

One commenter will win a giftie! An Amazon or B&N giftcard for a new journey of discovery.

Dani

Season Sense

If you’re thinking this blog is about setting, you’re totally wrong.  Maybe I should’ve changed the title so you wouldn’t have thought so, but after I started brainstorming ideas for a blog it actually fit.

My original idea was to write about two lessons I learned many years ago from my creative writing professor which, yes, would’ve pertained to setting, but then two of my Ruby sisters had also mentioned on our private loop that they planned blogs about the subject. Although I knew we’d approach the subject matter from different angles, I kind of figured our readers would say enough already.  So I’ll save my thoughts on setting for another time.

Anyway, going back to my creative writing classes— since I know you’re all dying to know what they were—the first one was free writing. We all know what that is, right? You just write whatever comes to mind without stopping for a length of time and the writing doesn’t need to follow rhythm or reason. It’s a way of freeing your muse. Thinking about that lesson helped me put a twist on the second lecture, which was setting sense and had to do with experiencing your world, and ‘Wala’  I think I came up with unique tutorial for our awesome followers.

Grabbing your “Peace of the Day”

The sweltering days of summer will soon start melting into the colorful, crisp days of autumn. I will once again be able to carry my 5-year-old’s restaurant balloon outside without fear of it touching the sizzling side of a car and exploding. No matter which stage of life you find yourself, the change of seasons and the start of the new school year signals a time to get organized.

Here in NC we have year-round school so a week ago my three little monsters, I mean angels, skipped merrily back to the classroom (if merrily means drooped shoulders and grim faces). This theoretically gives me more uninterrupted time to write. Which is just what I need since my editor is expecting a 100,000 word sequel by December.

So I have been trying to adjust my schedule to best use all this “free” time. I wake, start laundry, get the kids ready for school, drop my middle schoolers off at 7:45 AM, do yoga, drop my Kindergartener off at 8:45 AM, walk the dog, grocery shop, make my lovely kale juice and drink it, disrupt the fire ants who insist on making a home in my herb garden, unload the dishwasher, drink my chai tea on the back porch while doing the crossword puzzle and watching birds, ignore that it’s lunchtime, and sit down to write. I also try to squeeze in cleaning parts of the house, answering e-mail, blogging, showering and starting something in the crock pot for dinner. Ugh! Where’s my blasted Wonder Woman cape when I need it?!

I know some of you are looking at my list and mentally crossing off things I could trim.

1) I don’t want to use poison on the ants because then I can’t eat the herbs so I’m annoying them everyday until they move on. We’ll see if it works.

2) I’ve got health issues so I need to do my yoga or I can’t move, and with three kids I MUST move A LOT. This also goes for the kale juice.

3) That leaves my Peace of the Day – chai tea while doing the crossword puzzle and watching birds.

What is a Peace of the Day, and why can’t I eliminate it? It’s that part of my day that if I miss it, my body and psyche know that things aren’t normal. Either life is too busy or there’s been an emergency. It is a ritual that centers my whole day, grounds me so that I can be productive. If I jump immediately into writing without making my chai, I feel rushed and tense and nothing seems to flow. What is your Peace of the Day?

Here’s one way to find out. Fill in the blank: “I was so busy today I didn’t even get to ______.” Now if you filled in “use the bathroom”, that doesn’t count. Question: how many of you multi-task while using the bathroom? I am not proud to say that one time I managed to clean my bathroom while sitting on the toilet. At the time I thought I was Super Susie Homemaker, but now I realize I was working way too much into my day.

If you don’t get anything else out of this post, remember this. Stop multi-tasking in the bathroom. Bathroom time is sacred time. Husbands, fathers, old men in the park – they all know this. They spend time reading, relaxing and escaping on the pot. We can at least sit still for a few minutes. Sacred time, not Peace of the Day.

Try again. “I was so busy today I didn’t even get to ______.” For some it’s their morning coffee, prayer, or run. It’s personal and can change over time. It may seem like something to eliminate from your overflowing to-do list, but I warn you not to.

The creative mind is delicate. Rushing about and then plopping down to produce pages can range from being very difficult to completely impossible. By taking our Peace of the Day we persuade our muses to come out and play. So don’t feel guilty for taking time to start your day right.

As autumn trickles in with cooler mornings and shades of red, orange, and gold, think about your daily schedule. Maybe you don’t have a schedule and that works for you. For me the day speeds along way too fast if I don’t have goals.

Maybe you don’t have a Peace of the Day. It took me fighting cancer to find mine. Before that it was just eating breakfast which was a life necessity not a soul-inspiring ritual. Try out a few: watch birds, do Sudoku, meditate, play with your dog, or brew tea in a real teapot.

Maybe your schedule just needs a little revision. Start with guarding your Peace of the Day. Make it something you truly appreciate, something that feeds your spirit, and coaxes your muse. Everyone deserves peace, but it is something we must grant ourselves. Otherwise it will never find a place on our to-do lists.

I’d love to hear about your Peace of the Day and if you feel more productive when you make sure to work it in. Have a peaceful and productive day!

Heather

 

What a Year It’s Been!

I don’t know about you, but for me, 2011 was quite a doozie.

In January I was diagnosed with a parathyroid tumor. It turns out that it had been doing crazy things to my body for years. In April, just before I underwent a surgery that yanked it out and cured me (thank goodness!), I self-published my second fantasy romance, The Source of Magic. In the months since, I’ve been thrilled to watch Source‘s sales surpass even those of my first novel, Kismet’s Kiss. But while this summer was a giddy time career-wise, September, erm, “blessed me” with a very difficult personal situation.

A few months later, I find myself living 1000 miles away from the state that had been my home for eight years. I’m in a truly nutty but special place at the top of a mountain, with (yes, I’m biased) one of the best vistas in the world. Okay, I may not have an oven, or even hot water every now and then, but at least I have one helluva Room with a View.

I’d originally hoped to be announcing the release of a new fantasy romance short story today. I’d envisioned 1500 words in the style of a fairy tale, but “Swords and Scimitars” has a mind of its own and is refusing to end where I’d planned…or heck, even take the same GPS route.

I’m realizing that sometimes it’s okay to take that new path, even when my life might be, well, simpler if I’d stuck with the old one. One of the gifts I’m trying to give myself these days is patience. After all, when I began 2011, I had no idea what was awaiting me. As I’m ending it, I’m so glad I’m where I am today.

During this hectic holiday season, I hope you get a chance to breathe, look around you, and remember what’s good and beautiful in your life.

What wonderful things did 2011 bring you? What do you seek from the brand-new year to come?

Things we’ve learned since publishing

My critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton, signed me up to speak on a panel at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference near Portland, OR in October and the topic is…you guessed it, What I’ve Learned Since I’ve Published.  (In my case it’s sold, because my book doesn’t come out until April 2012.)

And it occurred to me that I’d love to hear what all the RUBY SISTERS have learned since they’ve sold and/or published.  So, I’ll start the ball rolling with one element and I hope everyone who has been down that publishing road will give the ball a little kick and add one thing they’ve learned that hasn’t been listed yet.

Mine:  FLEXIBILITY

I’ve learned that the published arena in a much bigger place, and I’m trying to please a whole lot more people, and to do that, I’ve got to be flexible.  About everything.  Title, cover, character names, the way a plot branches, etc.  Being flexible with your time is important because everyone moves at a different pace based on what else is going on in their schedules.  Flexibility extends to your marketing plan, your marketing budget, where your career goes after this contract is fulfilled and/or what you write next.

I’ve dealt with the title changes, the long waits, the altering marketing plans.  And while I’m still waiting for the edits, copy edits and cover changes to come, right now I live in what-comes-next village. 

With the two book contract complete and the option proposal written, I am in that phase of…now what?  It’s…an interesting place.  The freedom can make you a little giddy – but only for a while.  Then it gets a bit dicey.  Especially if what you want to write isn’t what’s selling or something you don’t have the voice to master.  (There is a fantastic article on this topic written by literary agent Laura Bradford here.)  Or maybe you are venturing into a genre that your current agent doesn’t represent, maybe staying in a genre that is saturated and struggling to find a “different” or “fresh” angle or concept to develop.

I recently submitted a proposal to my agent for a paranormal romance.  It was rather different from what I write currently, which is a touch more romantic suspense with paranormal elements.  How is that for pushing around a genre to fit?  But the concept didn’t completely sit right with my agent.  Some aspects worked for her, but some didn’t.  She couldn’t envision how I would be able to make the premise unique enough to stand out from what had already been done.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t crushed.  I think because my subconscious knew something wasn’t quite right, or maybe I wasn’t completely in love with it.  I don’t know, but I went back to the idea stage.  Pieces of this story had come from an idea I’d had a long time ago, something quite different–dark and gritty.  I took the original idea, fused it with some elements of the newer idea and of course, those two combined created elements unique to this book.  As I developed the book, I could see where it would open up into a series of related books.

Luckily, my agent really liked this version.  We talked over some issues she had, which if changed would make the idea stronger.  Once again, I altered the story and the characters, rewrote the synopsis and am waiting to hear back.

So, that’s just one of the big things I’ve learned since I’ve published…you’ve got to be all kinds of flexible.  Try things you never thought you’d try.  Think in ways you never thought you’d think.  Trust ideas you’d never thought you’d trust.

Think Gumby.

I can’t wait to hear what all of you have learned!!

Tell!  Tell!

Meeting The Muse

“Where do you find your ideas?”

I always find myself cringing, or rolling my eyes, or saying something snotty when a non-writer asks me this question.  Every writer knows that ideas come from everywhere. But have you ever stopped to wonder about the miracle of that?

Music to get you in the mood (to write a good sex scene)

Okay I admit it, next to producing a synopsis the thing I dread the most is writing sex scenes. Luckily I don’t write books that have a whole lot of sex in them, but there always comes that moment (about three quarters of the way into the book) where I have to insert tab A into slot B.

Exercising Your Creative Muscle

While exchanging e-mails with a friend in New York whom I’ve never actually met (That’s weird, right?  I have more friends now than I’ve ever had in my entire life, and most I’ve never met), I wrote something quite profound.  I love it when that happens.  I hate it when that happens.  I like to save the profound stuff for my manuscripts.  I’d been grappling with a blog topic.  I feel like I’m always grappling with a blog topic.  My own personal blog has been neglected like my housework and houseplants.  And my husband, or so he tells me.

 

I was writing my NY friend about my Golden Heart manuscript—my self-absorbed, self-indulgent subject of choice.  Pleasant Lake P.D. was only the second manuscript I ever wrote (My first was a futuristic, intergalactic mail-order-bride story.  We all have one.  Don’t pretend like you don’t.).  I wrote Pleasant Lake before I joined the RWA or my local chapter of the RWA.  I spilled words on the page with no thought to grammar, punctuation, or writing rules (Rules and my disdain for them is a subject for another blog).  The equivalent of throwing handfuls of paint at a blank canvas and calling it art.  Works for me. 

 

What did I say to my pal that was so profound?  I told her the manuscript was a way to exercise my creative muscle and exorcise my personal demons.  Clever.  Who knew? 

 

At the time I wrote Pleasant Lake, I hadn’t really entertained the thought of publication or the possibility someone might ever read my incoherent ramblings that read more like a manifesto for my psychiatrist to analyze and determine the likelihood that I might harm myself or others.  I certainly wouldn’t want strangers to read about my bumbling heroine or her trail of catastrophic relationships. The truth is, I don’t want people I do know to read about my hapless heroine and her phobias, foibles, and trail of failures.  What if they thought she was based on me?  Why do contest judges call me crass, flippant, and snarky?  It’s not me.  It’s my heroine.  I swear. 

 

The point is (I know.  Get to the point already.), it was a no holds barred, in your face, over-the-top, expression of my creativity.  If I thought it, I wrote it.    Will she fly in the published world, or will she be edited to shreds, my neurosis, snark, and F-bombs sent to the recycle bin?  Can I recreate the magic in another book now that I know the writing rules?  Or will my inner editor tell me “You can’t do that.”

 

How do you flex your creative muscle?  Keep a journal?  Collage?  Dissect the work of your favorite author?  Take workshops?  Read How To books?  Interview your characters until you know them better than you know your own children?  Sit at the airport and guess where passengers are going and why?

Where’d You Get the Idea?

So does the title for today’s blog sound familiar to you?

I know it does because every non-writer friend and family member has likely asked you, “How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?”

My answer: It popped into my head.

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