A Magic Muse Circle

One way I keep up with the publishing industry is by listening to podcasts about it when I’m in mom-taxi mode. My most recent find is “The Beautiful Writers Podcast” featuring Danielle LaPorte and Linda Silversten (link here). They’ve had some really big-name authors on and grilled them about their writing process, inspirations, and generally ways that make it all work.

Martha Beck was the guest I listened to today. She had a lot of insights and fantastic ideas, but the one that really struck me was how she gets inspired to write–she reads. I wrote a post not long ago about my reluctance to read fiction when I’m writing. I worry that another author’s voice will suddenly show up in my work. Then I read “The Siren” by Tiffany Reisz. I fell in love with her writing style and her strong, complex female lead character, Nora Sutherlin. Reading “The Siren” (then “The Angel” and “The Prince”) actually strengthened my writing. The main character of the Vivienne Series that I’m currently working on is a smart, strong woman, but after reading Tiffany Reisz’s work I saw how I could make her more complex and stretch my writing in new ways.

This past week I discovered Victoria Dahl. I was completely blown away by her latest book “Harlot“. The topic pulled me in. I’ve been fascinated by prostitutes on the American frontier ever since we spent time in Tucson. The book is sexy, in my opinion much sexier that most erotica I’ve read, because the sex scenes are about so much more that tab A meeting slot B. They aren’t repetitious descriptions of how hot and hung the guy is. Her sex scenes are nuanced and multi-layered, incorporating each characters past. Each motion means something and revels more about the characters and further develops their relationship. I loved it so much I’ve spent this weekend reading two more of her books and I’m more enthralled with her writing than ever. Her modern heroines in “Looking for Trouble” and “Flirting with Disaster” are boldly sexual but don’t limit themselves to being defined by their sexuality. They have full lives that include great sex but they don’t immediately toss those lives away when the male leads appear. Reading Victoria Dahl keeps my head in the strong, independent woman mode I need to write Vivienne.

So you might be thinking that reading other authors while writing is nothing new. I agree, but Martha Beck takes it one step farther. She’s created her own tribe of writers who inspire her and who she turns to when she needs a spark. She calls it her magical tribe. Magical because several of her writers are long dead and hence cannot be contacted in person and magical because she calls on this group when she needs illumination and each time she finds what she needs–the passage or quote that sheds light on whatever creative roadblock is standing in her way–like magic.

I love this concept so I decided to create my own magic tribe, my muse circle. These are writers who I will turn to when my creative flame needs some fanning. My own magic tribe would have to include Tiffany Reisz, Victoria Dahl, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lavinia Collins, Diana Gabaldon, and Danielle LaPorte. For some historic spice I’m adding Anais Nin. We’ll meet often, anytime I need a reminder of how to write a strong, complex, sexual female character. The coolest thing about my group is that each of these women somehow appeared on my radar exactly when I needed them. I found their writings when I needed to hear their precise message, told in their unique way–like magic.

Do you have a muse circle? Who do you turn to when you’re stuck for inspiration? If you were going to create a magic muse circle who would you include? Comment below and share the writers who inspire you to be a better writer.

Confessions of an Introvert

I had a light-bulb moment when I found the above post on Pintrest.  The more I read it, and continue to reread it, the more I saw myself in it.  I’m not sure if I am becoming more introverted with time or if I am just becoming more OK with being an introvert.  Either way, I am embracing my introversion and, ironically, wanting to share a little of it with you.

First I want to note that introversion is on a continuum.  Most people have a little introvert and extrovert in their personality.  Some lean more toward one end or the other, or they might veer toward one side or the other at different times in their life.  

For me the biggest difference between me and my extroverted friends (and I tend to love extroverts) is that they get a spark out of being around lots of people.  After a night out with a group of friends they feel like their batteries have been recharged.  An introvert, like me, will feel the opposite.  It is actually exhausting to be with a bunch of people or in a loud place.  However, that does not mean introverts don’t want go out with a group of friends.  We just need time afterwards to recharge our batteries, which is usually accomplished with quiet and calm. 

This is due to the fact that introverts are tuned in to more of the things going on around us.  We have a hard time tuning out background sounds, flashing lights, strong smells, etc.  My day at Disney World is a perfect example.  I love the place.  It’s a blast.  But, I was the only one out of our group of six to notice that there was literally no place you could go in the park where there was not overly-perky music playing (even in the bathrooms!).  It is playing all day, every where, so most people tune it out.  I can’t, so by the end of the day I crave complete silence.  I would never avoid Disney World for this reason, but I know I can take about one day of it at a time.  

Taking in more information is both a curse and a blessing.  People watching is incredibly fun for me, so I actually like being stuck in an airport sometimes.  I go all Sherlock Holmes and take time to observe the minor details about people around me.  I can tell so much about how they are dressed, what they do with their waiting-for-the-plane time, how they interact (or try not to) with those around them, what they have brought with them, etc.  For me, these are fascinating character studies.  (Although its really embarrassing when I am caught staring.)  

Which brings up the other idea in the post.  Introverts love to interact with other people, we just prefer a one-on-one conversation.  I love to learn about other people’s lives; really learn about them.  I have no problem with the chatty person next to me on a plane, as long as they are OK with my probing questions.  I not only want to know where they are from, I also want to know what it is like there.  What are the primary ethnic groups, what is the weather like, how long have they lived there, and how do all those things effect their day to day lives.  

Maybe being an introvert is synonymous with being a writer.  I observe a lot.  I remember a lot (sometimes things my friends and family wish I would forget!)  But when I started writing, all those character studies, all those memories, helped me create a rich make-believe world for my story.  

So, I’m sharing my story, my introversion with you today, because I have learned that it is important to open up and share with other too.  That is part two (the sequel) of being a writer.  You can’t live alone in the world you created (well, you can, but it’s not nearly as fun).  When you share your story you get the most amazing battery-charging feeling of all, connecting with others.  

The Half Way Finish Line

Today I am crossing the finish line, half way to the end of writing a novel.  I am adding the last few pages to my 170-page first draft of the romance novel I am writing. 

This is a HUGE milestone, even though I am actually about half way though the process it takes to get it to market.  It’s such a big deal because this is the step most (hopeful) writers never make it to.  The first draft is the basic framework, the story, full of weak points, grammatical errors, loose ends, etc.  Somewhere between a great idea and a full framework is where a huge number of authors get lost.  And I completely understand why.  Sitting around, playing out make believe scenarios in your head, takes time.  That is time when it looks like you are doing nothing, and it might go nowhere, and there are a thousand other things to do around your house that call out to you.  I would guess that there are many potential authors with very clean closets and drawers.  When the writing frustrates you, it is often easier to give in to those tasks. 

Hemmingway – “The first draft of everything is shit.”

So, I have the frame work on paper, now what?  I had to look online, but luckily someone (lots of people) have done this before me and, being writers, they wrote about it!  Next, I will fix all those grammatical errors, the ones that I can see, and I will analyze my work for weak points, and illogical story lines, and superfluous characters, and sub plots that go nowhere.  Once I complete that, I have to get brave, really brave, and show my work to others.  I plan to have around 10-15 readers help me look for more grammatical errors, lame story elements, etc.  Then I fix/rewrite again.  Then (and it’s hard to see this far into the future) I will look for an agent.  OK, we’ll stop there. . . for now.  Sometime next year I will let you know when I get to that step and the results. 

One final thing I have to do this week is brace myself for the let down.  It is inevitable and it is coming.  I’ve spent the past two years (loosely) and 6 months (intensely) working on this story.  I have been living with these characters and we have had a blast.  I don’t have to completely let them go yet, we still have work to do, but for me, this is like finishing reading a book.  The story is over.  I know the ending.  It was a fantastic ride and, in a way, I don’t want to be here.  (Yet another reason so many don’t get through that first draft).

I’m telling all of you this today so I can celebrate, but also so that I am accountable.  So that someone might ask me how it’s going or where I’m at in the process.  Then I will hopefully get myself back in gear if I have fallen out. 

Many factors are going to make this next step more challenging (but a I love a good challenge).  This Friday I officially go back to my part-time job after several months off.  The holidays are coming (run away!), and there is always extra work involved in them.  My parenting-partner-in-crime also just got super busy so I will be the lone Chick in Charge more often than not.

 OK, enough about later this week and beyond.  TODAY is about celebration.  Today is a big, woo hoo, I did it!  Thank you all for being a part of it with me.  Woo Hoo!!!!