Justine Musk

A Chance to help those who help us

Hi guys!  I am stepping out of schedule this week as I have just gotten an important email that I want to share with you. Write to Done is having its 6th annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest and writer bloggers everywhere need your help to get them nominated.

There are hundreds of blogs for writers out there.  I am asking that you take a moment and vote at Write to Done.

If you need any help in deciding who you should nominate, stop and think who has made an impact on your writing career the most.  Who has been there to teach you, to guide you, to answer your unending emails?  Who has shown you kindness when you felt like you were on the writing road alone?

For me, there are so many like Justine Musk, Patti Larsen, Christina Katz, Copyblogger, and Jane Friedman that have taught me so much.

But Sean Platt at GhostwriterDad has been a endless pool of resources into which I am CONSTANTLY dipping and for which I am forever grateful and I would love to see him win, but you have to give your honest nomination.

That is what I am asking from you.

There are many writers out there that take the time to help because they know the difficulties that we face as newbies...they are the ones that you should thank with your nomination.

Now, I want to thank you for your time for stopping by to read!


If you have two minutes, I would really appreciate your input on a short 5 question survey!  Thank you, in advance!

Let's connect on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+!!

Credit: Sebcaen via Wikimedia Commons

Justine Musk Interview: Lessons in Great Writing

After reading BloodAngel, I became enamored with Justine Musk’s style of writing.  She is phenomenal at visual writing.  Imagery like hers is rare and beautiful.  She has also authored Lord of Bones (the sequel to BloodAngel) and Uninvited.  She has contributed short stories to Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love and Love Bites: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2. Justine’s writing is so profound that I thought we might be able to learn a thing or two from her. If you are interested in learning more from her, she has an excellent blog over at Tribal Writer .  :) Without further ado, I give you Justine Musk.

BloodAngelwas your first published novel.  How long did that journey take, from conception to shelf?  What struggles did you face when it came time to find a publishing house? 

I started kicking around ideas and images for the book when I was in college, so from conception to shelf it was probably about ten years, all told.  The manuscript, when it was ready, found an agent quickly and it sold relatively quickly. But it took me about eight other unpublished novels to get to that point. Struggle is the name of the game – you have to learn how to love to engage with it, or you won’t last.

“Heat and dust and silence, the sky hammering itself into the flat white of noon” was Jess’ impression of a moment in the desert in BloodAngel.  This line is forever emblazoned in my brain. Your use of imagery in your writing is beautiful.  Is that an acquired talent that the rest that can be learned and honed or an innate talent that one must be born with?  If the former is true, what is the best way to develop that skill?

 Thank you!  I’m a strongly visual person, and so I think that comes through in my writing, and I always gravitated to writers who enjoy that play with language (Joyce Carol Oates, T.C. Boyle, Poppy Z Brite come to mind), who take risks with it.  I definitely think it’s a skill that can be developed – Janet Fitch comes to mind, her book WHITE OLEANDER, how she (apparently) worked hard to find her own language and imagery, to see the familiar from a new angle. 

Probably one of the best things you can do is to read a lot of contemporary poetry. And of course to write, write, write.  Give yourself exercises.  Take different things and force relationships between them, figure out how they’re similar to each other, explore that in your writing.  Do a lot of freewriting – don’t censor, just give yourself over to your undermind and see what bubbles up.  Don’t be afraid of yourself, your true voice.

What is your writing process like?  Describe your frame of mind when you sit down at your laptop to write, be it a blog post or a novel. 

 I write daily, usually in the mornings, and when I have the kids (I am divorced with 50/50 custody) I’ll try to get up at 4 or 5 am to do some work while the rest of the house is still sleeping.  I really love that silent, kind of lonely time.  I’ll give my mind stuff to mull over – some information about the scene, some dialogue – before I sit down to write that scene.  Same with the blog: I’ll do a lot of reading, let ideas surface, percolate, find each other, before sitting down to write a blog post. That incubation period is super important. 

 There are times when I get anxious about writing, and will do a few minutes of meditation, maybe some quick yoga, to calm my brain.  There’s almost always that bit of resistance to work through, but then the writing starts to flow and it’s lovely. The trick is to get through that resistance. It will kill you dead if you let it!

You are established and have this gig wrapped around your finger.  But, in the beginning, how important was critique and mentorship to you?  What suggestions do you have for those that seek these types of guidance?

 I don’t feel like I have this gig wrapped around my finger!  I stepped away from fiction for a couple of years while I went through my divorce and thought hard about the kind of writer I wanted to be (I might have been overthinking it!).  The blog Tribal Writer was partly an attempt to reinvent myself, re-position myself a little bit.  In a lot of ways I feel like I’m starting over, although I guess that’s not exactly true.

 Critique and mentorship are so important, I can’t emphasize that enough.  It has to be the right kind: tough but constructive, nuanced, particularly as you become more advanced in your craft.  My agent has a great editorial eye and I benefited from that.  I also found a great writing coach, who gives terrific feedback and holds me accountable as I push to finish my current novel.  So if anything, that kind of mentorship has become even more important to me.  You need someone to help you through your blind spots, who isn’t necessarily your agent or editor.  We all have those blind spots, and when someone can shine a light on them for you, so you can see something you couldn’t quite before?  Breakthrough. A great feeling. You should always strive to get better, get better.

Your blog, Tribal Writer, is a commanding, educational, and inspirational force for writers seeking guidance in this business.  What is the single most important piece of advice you were given that has guided your career and formed who you are?

Thanks so much.  And wow, what a question.  I feel, looking back, like I made a lot of mistakes, was groping my way through the dark for so long… I can think of a few things, maybe not one big thing.  Persist, persist, persist.  Write what you want to know about (instead of just what you know, which can be very crippling).  Work close to your soul, or else you won’t have a chance in hell.  My friend Jason Calacanis, a tech guy, advised me to get on Twitter back when most people still didn’t know what it was, and that was what really kicked off my fascination with platform and social media, which, now, feels like a huge part of who I am – or am becoming.  I’m not one of those writers who says you don’t need to worry about developing an online platform – I think you absolutely do need to worry about it, you need to start learning about it as soon as possible, you need to think very long-term, and you should make platform-building as important as your actual writing.  


You have a large family and a demanding career, what time management tips would give to help those trying to balance work and family?

I have an unusual life, very privileged, a lot of help, so my situation is not typical and I don’t want people thinking that I’m some kind of superhero.  I’m not.  But you have to be quote-unquote selfish about making the time for your creative work, you can’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of trying to be all things to everyone, so self-sacrificing, guilty.  You have to absolutely refuse to sacrifice yourself, your writing, which to me is one and the same thing.  But that can get very difficult, because this culture expects women to sacrifice themselves and will frown on them when they don’t (partly because it’s so bloody inconvenient for other people when they don’t!).

And you can’t sweat the small stuff.  Sometimes you have to let the small stuff kind of go to hell, at least for as long as you can get away with it.  Routine is important. Exercise and nutrition and sleep.  Creative rituals.  Healthy boundaries.  But I’m not sure there is a ‘balance’, there are periods of obsession and then periods of recovery.  It’s not a marathon so much as a series of sprints, with rest breaks in between.  Otherwise you burn out and break down. 

You also have to know what you can give up.  I don’t watch TV, I rarely go to movies, I have a very uninteresting social life (at least for the time being).  I am very clear on what I want, and clarity is a beautiful thing.

On your blog, you mention dreams of building a media empire.  What will this mean for your career as an author?  Can we still expect to see new novels on the horizon (soon J)?

I’m actually just starting to say that, it’s still a very tender young bud of a dream.  I just think it’s a very, very exciting time to be a writer.  I spent the last ten years surrounded by entrepreneurs, so I’ve been a little bit infected by that spirit.  But I am a novelist (and maybe a blogger) first and foremost:  I’m just very strongly attracted to the idea of the writer as entrepreneur, self-published as well as traditionally published, as a producer of multimedia content, as a transmedia storyteller. At the moment I just feel open to anything, like anything is possible, so long as you have the passion for it and you’re willing to sweat for it and you’re not afraid to embrace change.  When things are changing, when there’s some chaos, there’s also remarkable opportunity.   

There is a lot of good information here for writers looking to perfect their writing ability.  I hope that you guys have enjoyed this lesson.  I certainly have and I want to say a BIG “thank you” to Justine for agreeing to do this interview. It was kind of you to take time out to help those writers in need. 

What is your writing process?  How can you improve what you do?  Leave your comments below, I love hearing from you! 

 © Tania Dakka and Chaotic Musing, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Yes, I am a little late with this one, but duty called.  Here it is, better late than never:) Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

"You need to tell the truth and share the truth.  Information you keep only puts blades in your soul."

Lord of Bones, Justine Musk











© Tania Dakka and Chaotic Musing, 2011



Teaser Tuesdays

MizB over at Should Be Reading hosts this meme called Teaser Tuesdays.  Anyone can partake in the festivities.  The concept is simple and brilliant.  We all get to add new books to our TBR lists! Here are the rules:

  1. Open your current read to a random page
  2. Share two sentences (NO SPOILERS, please :))
  3. List the author and title of your read

Easy?  Let's DO THIS! 

She looked behind her, but the space had dropped away into darkness.  It was like gazing at a wall of black.  Keep away, an inner voice told her

Another mesmerizing tale by Justine Musk, Uninvited is a page-turner. 


I would love to see what you are reading!  Feel free to leave your link here (or over at MizB's Should Be Reading)!


Review: Uninvited by Justine Musk


by Justine Musk - Released 2007

Recommendation: Highly

Backcover Synopsis: Kelly Ruland's world fell apart when her brother Jasper walked away the sole survivor of a car accident...and kept walking right out of town.  She doesn't want to believe that Jasper was at fault - but then why did he run away?  How could he abandon Kelly and her parents?  Now, former star student and athlete Kelly struggles to care about anything anymore, sleepwalking through school and experimenting with dangerous behavior as she tries to fill the void inside her. 

Then one night,  Jasper returns...but he's not alone.  Someone has followed him home.  Someone who hides in the space behind the truth, who hovers in the shadows between the known and unknown.  His name is Archie, and he is the stranger they never asked to know, the guest they never invited.  And he's about to challenge Kelly and Jasper to a game that demands a price they many not be willing to pay. 


My take:

The characters of Uninvited, right down to the guy that we saw for five seconds, were dynamic and realistic. Even the antagonist was somewhat likable.  The story was compelling and very difficult to put down. Nervous of the ending, I was so glad the author took the road she did, rather than the others she could have.  Justine Musk, as with BloodAngel, produced a high energy fast read that is chock full of beautiful, colorful language characteristic of her style, her voice. Her use of imagery is uncanny. Thanks, Justine Musk, for teaching me that silver has a sound and that cold has a smell.    I highly recommend Uninvited to all, but especially fans of dark urban fantasy.


Have you read Uninvited?  Your thoughts?  I love to hear from you! 

© Tania Dakka and Chaotic Musing, 2011

Review: BloodAngel by Justine Musk


5 out of 5

If any of you know me, are on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter, then you realize now how horrendously slow my reading is.  Had life and lives not gotten in the way of my reading, then this one have been a three-nighter max. 

This is the first of a two-part series.  It was published in 2005 (so, yeah, I am a LITTLE behind with my reading :D). 

Jessamy, an up and coming painter, is caught unaware as she discovers the subject of her paintings is not a figment her imagination, but a living, breathing orphan.  Their fates are intertwined as they learn that the  destiny of the worlds rests on their shoulders.  Kai Youngblood must educate Jess on her new station in this life and develops more than a student/teacher relationship.  Together, the three of them must save the worlds from Bakal Ashika. 

Justine Musk's use of imagery is nothing short of brilliant.  Her amazing ability to show verses tell is uncanny.  A taste of what I mean:  While Ramsey was in his room, he noted, through the open window, how "the air was thick with June." Additionally, when Jess was driving in the desert, she felt "Heat and dust and silence, the sky hammering itself into the flat white of noon." 

Oh. My. God.  That last one is etched into my brain.  The author uses color to lend life and character to inanimate, intangible objects.  Her use of language is masterful.  But, don't take my word for it...check it out for yourself (if you haven't already  :D).

Stoked to delve into the sequel, Lord of Bones, and her second book, Uninvited.  What about you?

Thanks, Justine, for these lessons in excellent writing...(Aren't you tired of hearing that??)


 If you have read BloodAngel, leave your comments below and let me know what you thought! 

Thanks for stopping by this corner of the net:)  I look forward to talking with you again soon:)


© Tania Dakka and Chaotic Musing, 2011