Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I used to think of stalkers as jealous former boyfriends and girlfriends, disgruntled ex spouses, obsessed co-workers, determined paparazzi, and obnoxious groupies. But I had to add to the list MY MUSES. I have twenty-five of the pesky perpetrators. You won’t feel envious when you hear how they operate.

The more benign stalkers like to hover like morbidly infatuated admirers. These muses tend to be observers who, on occasion, feel compelled to throw their two cents into the money jar. Alexis—in Greek “to help”—butts in when I least need her, like when I’m spending my one hundredth day researching the mating habits of iguanas for that one scene in ACT II of my latest screenplay. Velda is a hangeronnner who throws her weight around even when I’m supposed to be talking to my mother on the phone.

My rejected stalkers are intimacy seekers who’ve devolved into resentful muses. They are pathologically jealous of my time. They forget I have a life to live outside of fiction. They castigate until I’m on my knees, and if I don’t submit to their demands, they become vengeful, turning my characters against each other or taking my stories in directions I hadn’t planned. They can either save my book or mess with my mind so much I delete the damn thing. Oneida is a rock muse who is more like a ball and chain and makes it hard to go for a good long walk. Tanner tans hides. Then there’s the tallest of my muses, Sasquatch. I have no idea how he wheedled his way in there.

Some of my stalkers are kind of cool. One clutch chases after me while quilting the orange and red cloud threads at dawn. It’s quite a trick. They are particularly good with scene setting and choreography. One calls herself Seraphina – “fiery one” in Hebrew—who knew some muses were Jewish? Tara is a Colorado mile-highness, whose moniker is Irish for “an elevated place.” She inspired the bizarre locale of two of my books, the bohemian bastion of Boulder. Then there’s Muse Pearl…The secretions of a mollusk? Guess she’s meant to be atmospheric.

I tremble now as I think about one gang of stalkers who strike fear in my heart, pancreas, and other organs. They’re soul sucking dementors who threaten to bounce me down to hell and back to find my stories. These muses are overly careless with cattle prods and Donald Maass books. You’ve heard of plot reversals? That’s Muse Kylie’s Australian specialty, the boomerang. When I fail to twist my plots around often enough to entertain her, that damned wooden “play toy” becomes a weapon. Muse Melanie’s French name suits her. It means black and dark, and she never fails to show up late and force my protagonist to choose between two devastating courses of action. Frederica, a “peaceful ruler,” specializes in dénouements. Don’t be fooled by her name though. If I don’t leave a reader wanting more by the end of the book, I’m thrown into the torture chamber with Muse Gertrude and her spear, Edger Allen Poe, and Wilber the Wild Boar. How that last muse factors in, I’ve never quite figured out.

Some of my stalking muses are cranky and demanding about character development. Bridget—the exalted one—is an old-school nun who ruler-slaps me until each of my characters is a hero of his own story. Rhianno—the Great Welsh Queen—is the storm in brainstorm when it comes to protagonists. Muse Calvin insists my characters are adequately flawed. His French name means bald. Go figure.

The intimacy seekers believe I’m their soul mate. Their love letters are false starts. Shshshshhhhh. Don’t tell them a few have been recycled or have been critiqued into submission, by human friends no less. Stalkers of this variety are usually torn between reconciliation and revenge. Acacia—Greek for ”point of a thorn”—is a pain in the buttocks and is almost as ornery as Anise and Saffron, who sprinkle themselves all over the page when I’m working on one of my literary cookbooks. Then there are the naked muses, Cherry and Beverly Beaver Stream, who come creeping into my bed when I’m doing hands on research for flash erotica.

My nitpicker muses are irritating little Tinkerbell types who seem to think I need inspiration in the area of punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Courtney insists her name means short nose; but I think it means raised nose. She’s got a problem with peek and peak, bare and bear, and don’t get her started on to, two, and too! Blair lost her wings long ago on the battlefield. Trapezius stubs aside, she still takes up arms over the stupidest little things like periods and commas always belonging inside the quotation marks. Pu-lease! Making things worse, these persnickety muses are in league with the cyberstalkers.

They are a fun bunch of blokes.

I have no idea what the Cyberstalkers look like. They may not even exist. They pretend to be those guys from high school you friended last year then supported by “liking” this and “commenting” on that, when really they are keyboard perverts who have fetishes about fonts and format and pet peeves about passive language, unnecessary dialogue tags and qualifiers. Talk about anal!

Know what’s really scary? These cyber-bullies and gnat flickers have formed an alliance against my favorite muse, What-Will-Be-Will-Be Cassara. The nitpickers only allow her near me during my rushed first drafts. But once she’s done her job, the cyberstalkers kick her to the side, grumbling like hung over puppeteers pulling my strings as if I was their bouncy flouncy editorial marionette. I resent that!

I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with stalkers. I’ll share my lessons with you. Don’t engage them unless you’re determined to publish your book. Reach out and tell others what’s going on. Others suffer with their own muses and are eager to form stalking muse support groups. See? I told you, muses aren’t always as angelic as they’re made out to be. Or are they? - Inkpot

Friday, March 23, 2012

Farewell, 2008 Writer’s Market

While struggling to tame one of our overfull bookcases, I spotted my three-inch thick 2008 Writer’s Market. Sticky note laden and adorned by multi-colored highlights, folded page corners, and a dozen paperclips, I hate to think how many hours I spent curled around that book, studying which publisher wanted what and how to get it to them.

I used to purchase a revised edition every other year or so, but that stopped in 2008 when I received my first book contract. That contract, coupled with an on-line presence by virtually every publisher, dispelled my desire to purchase a newer version of Writer's Market. So into the recycle bin poor old 2008 will go, along with hours and hours of dreams of publication.

Please don't misunderstand, I’m comfortable saying farewell. New hopes and dreams have usurped the old, though my goals remain quite high. I have to confess though, after flipping through 2008 and contemplating all of the research and effort held within those pages, it is difficult for me to imagine how many publication goals were fulfilled, or how many nightmares of rejection continue to haunt, sustained entirely by all of that tiny print and those somewhat arcane symbols. I pray that the number of dreams put comfortably to bed is as enormous as the book itself, and I hope 2008 will soon rest in peace.

~ Folio

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I imagine we all have pet peeves when it comes to fiction. Those niggling habits writers have that trip us up, waste words, and mince meanings. If enough of them distract, we are tempted to repurpose the book for kindling.

When editing my clients' work, I tend to run into certain bugaboos quite often.

Some of them require an ear for Tense (and manipulating it as needed for backstory), Point of View (the blinders that keep that horse from seeing what’s behind him), underuse of contractions, telling when showing would be more powerful, etc.

Luckily, others are less nuanced and can be addressed easily with our word programs’ search/find features.

Search and destroy:

When you‘ve placed these two words -- and then (side by side). Pick one or the other. You don’t need both.

Qualifiers deflate prose. Examples: began to, begin, started to, start, a bit of, a little of, seemed to, what appeared to be, maybe, almost, decided to, plan to, any (as in: Note any changes you make.), all of (as in: I'm too old for all of this.)

Frequently used throwaway words that weaken the prose such as: just, oh, anyway, well, fairly, seems, though, very, really, many, a lot, so, and of these (as in: several of the boys)

Passive construction: watch for forms of “to be” paired with gerunds. Simple past tense is better, more active, more engaging. “She is holding” versus “She holds”

Vague and less vivid words like:
sit (how about “plop” or “eased down into” or “collapsed into”)
walked (strolled, marched, traipsed, sauntered) and run, went down, went over, moved, laugh, look…

!!!!!! Use exclamation marks only when absolutely necessary. Good dialogue or narrative already conveys the urgency or excitement

Suddenly and immediately. Most of the time they aren’t necessary. Let the thing happen, the context will let us know it happened suddenly.

Unnecessary qualifiers weaken the prose. Let them be or do instead of “start to be” or “begin to do” something: watch for “began” and “started”

Unnecessary wordiness (like redundancies and phrases that can be simplified without changing meaning) Ex: "down below" becomes "below"

Unnecessary attributions of thoughts, beliefs, etc. If we are solidly in POV we assume those thoughts etc. are those of the POV character. Ex: I thought, He felt, I believed

“THAT” can often be eliminated. If a sentence can read just fine without it, take it out.

Fancy dialogue tags. “Said” is typically the best dialogue tag – others like hissed, addressed formally, argued, etc. call attention to themselves and slow the read. Good dialogue doesn’t need description – unless it is unclear in context that something is said sarcastically. Even "said" can be replaced with an action of the character. "Don't you dare." John grabbed his beer can and sqeezed it into a crumple of aluminum.

Make use of the FIND feature and you’ll clean up many editors’ pet peeves and will help your reader continue moving forward.

Inkpot wishes you good editing.