Welcome to the Kinder Muse Newsletter for December 2017


We have a special treat this month with two guest columnists! 

What? I Have to Revise That Story Again?!
Here’s Why . . .By Tyree Campbell

Time to preach to the choir again.  You lot will enjoy it.  Them as needs to read this will never even see it.  Still, we try . . .

One of the vexations of an editor—at any level of publication, from New York Bloatpresses down to the nanopresses—is the first draft.  Despite the strictures of guidelines, there are innumerable budding writers who labor under the impression that all they have to do is splash words onto a page and hey, presto!  Submit that story!

Um . . . no.

So far as is known, there is only one writer who was able to write a publishable first draft:  Harlan Ellison.  He once demonstrated this at a gathering (he relates), at which he had folks submit a brief story idea, and he would write it, right there in front of everyone.  One such idea was submitted by—if I recall Ellison’s memoir correctly—Damon Knight, and it was:  “the ninety-nine-year-old pregnant corpse.”  Ellison groused, but wrote the story.  Boom.

I can’t do that.  Hemingway couldn’t do it.  Homer couldn’t do it.  Tolstoy couldn’t do it.  Even the prolific Asimov couldn’t—or perhaps wouldn’t—do it.  I’ll even go out on a limb here and declare unreservedly that every freakin’ book you see in the library, in Barnes & Noble, or in a used-book store, is the result not of a first splash of words onto paper, but of writing, and editing, and writing, and skull-sweat, and adjustment, and editing, and writing, until at last the final version is acceptable to the writer and the editor.

Did I mention skull-sweat?  Enough that you risk dehydration.

Now, there are careers or activities in which it *appears* that a first attempt works out.  Take marksmanship, for example.  Watch a match in the Olympic biathlon sometime.  Bang bang bang bang bang.  All five little windows shattered.  And that’s what you see.  Wow, right?

What you don’t see are the hours and days and years of practice.  Of getting each shot right.  Of getting it right, even after cross-country skiing for a kilometer or three, gasp pant wheeze.  You don’t see the effort or the preparation.  All you see is the little window shattered as the shot hits it.  Bang.  Like that.

It’s the same with writing a story.  If you don’t “get” that, perhaps writing is not your best choice of careers.

Addendum:  I’ve been asked how I know when a story I’m writing is ready for submission.  Well . . . for me (not necessarily for you, but) what I do is write, and edit, and adjust, and finish the story.  Then I will set it aside for a few days, even a week or longer, until I am no longer emotionally involved in the story.  Then I’ll re-read it and find better words, or make adjustments, or change a bit of dialog to better reflect the way a character would talk, or correct a typo or an error of grammar or syntax.  And set the story aside.  And pick it up again and go over it again.  And again.  And again.

When the time comes when I can read the story without making a change, not even so much as a comma, then I know it’s ready.

Then, and only then, will I submit it.  (And most of the time, it works out well, J).

Ad astra!


About Writing Groups
By Cornelia Feye                     

If you have ever been part of a writing group, you remember the awkward moment after reading your story is followed by a moment of silence before one member says: “I don’t get it.”

You feel exasperated and defensive, because to you, it is totally obvious what you meant and you feel you have described it in crystal clear prose. You look around the circle of well-meaning fellow writers. Well, maybe some are not entirely well-meaning, but are instead looking for a flaw in your story.

“What don’t you get?” you ask, trying to keep your voice calm and reasonable and free of irritation.

“I don’t understand why the main character did what she did, and I am confused about who the main character is anyway,” says one of the participants.

You take a deep breath and try to breathe out your frustration.

At moments like that a writing group is most valuable.

As writers, we tend to be an egocentric bunch, wrapped up in our own worlds, our own stories, which seem wondrous and exciting. We love to live in this world, and want to tell others about it. “Come and enter my world. You’ll love it,” is our battle cry. But what if the readers, or fellow writers, don’t want to enter or cannot enter, because they don’t understand the rules of our world, or, worst of all, don’t love it?
As a writer, this is of course a risk we have to take. But the bewildered question of our writing group member, can mediate this risk. We may be able to switch to his or her point of view.

The dreaded POV.

In writing as in life, it is easy and comfortable to settle into our own point of view, and expect others to share it. Isn’t it obvious that this is the right way to look at things, that this is how it actually is? I say in writing and in life, but in politics as well a self-centered and self-complacent attitude has led to unsurmountable differences, to alternative facts, and a complete disappearance of common ground.
Writing can be a training ground to practice different points of view. Looking at our own stories from someone else’s perspective changes everything. We realize there may be gaps in our plot we didn’t notice, because in our mind we filled in the blanks. We may notice that the main character is not as compelling, unique and complex as we thought, and her actions are not as logical as they appeared to us. We might stop and listen to someone else’s perspective and discover a new voice.

For three years, the 2nd Thursday Writers Group met at the Coronado Library and assembled a collection of short stories featuring a talking salamander, a long-dead Irish ancestor, a serial killer or two, a Navajo Medicine Man, a murderous surgeon, a magical coat, a magician, a mime, an elusive dragonfly, and an assortment of dysfunctional family members and ghosts. By listening to each other, we expanded our literary world to include characters we could not have imagined ourselves, and in the process, we became friends.

Magic, Mystery & Murder, Cornelia Feye and Tamara Merrill, editors, plus authors April Baldrich, Max Feye, Kate Porter, Claire Rann; Konstellation Press, $10, Available on Amazon.


Here’s the link to the particulars . . . For those of you that visit my site regularly, you’ll notice a few changes. For those of you that don’t, well . . . this may be all new to you! Please let me know if you have any questions!


Here’s the link to the particulars . . .  If you live in San Diego or are visiting the area, please come join us – and bring a writer friend. You know how we writers are . . . we tend to recluse ourselves. Then again, I may just be speaking for myself!


Since I haven’t received any poems for this section of my newsletter, here’s one of my post-apocalyptic haibun from a collection-in-process.
“Seize the day, seize the day, seize the day,” she murmured until the litany reverberated within her mind. There was barely any water left in the house, the snow, just beginning to fall. It would soon smell wondrous outside once the acrid scent of sparking power lines dissipated. There were other odors that she didn’t want to encounter, but reminded herself that it could be worse. Tugging on her jeans, she cinched the belt even tighter. It would need a few more holes. She almost laughed at how obsessive she had always been about her appearance. It had just begun to snow, and she still had wood left to burn.

after nightfall

the beacon light

of her home


The Galaxy Jump, a novel by S. E. Shellcliffe, is coming out from Alban Lake Publishing early next year.  Here’s a brief introduction:

Sylvia—an alienated 10-year-old genius—finds the courage to forgive as she rescues the magical, tiny aliens called the duckbutts, and leads the fight against the jealous, evil grerds in The GalaxyJump..

(Note: Remember to send your accolades to me the week before January 1!)YT’S NEWS UPDATES

I have a novel coming out sometime after the first of the year. Here’s a brief blurb from this month’s “View from the Lake” newsletter:

“Sisterhood of the Blood Moon by Terrie Leigh Relf. In this science fiction/fantasy novel, Miri sees a past she doesn’t recognize and a future she might, if she could just make sense of the present. And The Offering isn’t helping…yet. January 2018.”


As many of you may know, I was interviewed by Cory Andrew of All Business Media FM in November. Here’s that link to my 8-minute interview in their archives.

This month, and again in January, I’m going to be interview for 30 minutes by Rick Del Gado.

  • December 18 at noon (PDT)
  • January 8 at noon (PDT)

And here’s the link to listen in. The interviews will be transferred to their archives section a few days following the interview.


I’ve been receiving quite a few drabbles for the new contest. Keep them coming! That said, check out this link for the guidelines.


As you may recall, all you have to do is say the word, “Sozar!” to receive my family and friends discount. I’ll be updating the code word for January, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, since I will be raising my rates in 2018, if you sign up for coaching or my other services before the new year, you’ll receive the same lower price throughout 2018! Visit my site to learn more about what I offer!

Until Next Time!

Your Kinder Muse
Terrie Leigh Relf

Copyright © 2017 Terrie Leigh Relf DBA, All rights reserved.

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