The Summer Muse

by | Jun 28, 2017 | The Writer's Life | 10 comments

Roses in my garden

This month’s topic here at Rogue Women Writers is how vacations or the lazy days of summer feed our muse. Summer plays havoc with a thriller writer, or at least it does for me. Gone are the dark, cold days that lend themselves to equally dark, exciting thrillers. Now the days are long, sunny, and mellow. When I’m not taking long runs on the lakefront I’m riding my vintage Raleigh bicycle to errands and taking a nightly walk through the neighborhood after dinner. 
By the way, the Raleigh is one of my favorite finds. It had been housed in someone’s attic, was dripping with cobwebs and the tires had rotted. It had all original parts and a vintage headlamp that worked off of friction. This bike is steel, heavy and built to last. The hub was dated March, 1974. It was love at first sight. I took it home, added new tires, and cleaned it up. It rides like a dream, and while it only has three speeds it beats my faster, lighter racing bike for charm and practicality. I use it daily. (Picture below).
When you live in Chicago you find yourself longing for these days, because there’s nothing that matches Chicago in the summer. I’ve lived in New York City, Miami Beach and Tampa and while all have their charms during the rest of the year, in the summer they have a decidedly different vibe than Chicago. Miami Beach is so hot that it feels like a blowtorch on your back and the gorgeous beach that I long for in December sizzles so much that I can’t walk on the sand. New York’s vibrant throb slows on the weekends, when everyone flees up north to their homes in the Berkshires, Poconos, or, if loaded with cash, the Hamptons. Or at least it felt that way when I lived there as a student with no funds to go anywhere.
Vintage 1974 Raleigh bicycle. Attic find.
But one thing summer does grant a writer is time. The long days lend themselves to more writing. I usually have some of my most fruitful ideas during my summer runs, when it’s early morning and I’m working through a knotty plotting problem or letting my mind wander to a new premise. 
I also find ideas in the music of summer. Every year I head to Lollapalooza, Chicago’s massive music festival. It’s held in Grant Park, which is only about five miles down the lakefront from my house, and it’s four days of some of the most interesting music around. Three hundred thousand people attend. The music ranges from hip hop to country to blues to rock and just being in the presence of other artists feeds my own creative muse. I usually ride down along the lake, chain up the bike, and when the headliner finishes I avoid the inevitable traffic gridlock by riding home. I’ve seen Jack White (amazing in concert), Alabama Shakes, St Paul and The Broken Bones, The 1975, Paul McCartney (also amazing), the Kongos, Chance the Rapper, the Red Hot Chili Peppers… the list goes on and on. I leave buoyed by the creativity of others. 
I’m in the new premise phase now. With one manuscript completed and working on the final pass pages for another, I know that the time to start writing the next is near. I sit in my yard and sip ice tea while thinking about what I want to start. One thing I’m never short of is ideas. I have a dozen good ones to choose from, but I can’t write a dozen at one time. Decisions have to be made. If you’re writing, you know what I mean. If only we could write more and faster! 
I already have a pretty good idea of which story I want to pick up next, though. I’ll write a short premise log line and head to New York City to meet with my agent to discuss it and to attend the International Thriller Writers’ Thrillerfest conference in July. I’ve gone to this conference every year since it started and I love it. Like Lolla, I usually leave Thrillerfest buzzing with ideas and renewed energy. I’ll have a drink with my editors, agent, and, of course, the Rogue Women Writers, and I’ll talk nothing but books for four days. Pure bliss.
After Thrillerfest you won’t hear from me much. I’ll head to Lolla, watch a few plays at the amazing theaters here in Chicago, and head to a late August vacation. In the meantime though, I hope the joys of these warm days and nights make you smile. 
Best, Jamie Freveletti
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  1. Gayle Lynds

    How wonderful that you've finished a ms & are doing pages for another & thinking about a third, Jamie! See you soon!

  2. S. Lee Manning

    I love that new premise phase of writing. It's sort of like when you first fall in love, as opposed to five years into the marriage when you have to divvy up who's doing the dishes and who's getting the kids. Summer;s a great time for it. See you soon!

  3. Karna Bodman

    Your post brought back so many pleasant memories of growing up in a suburb of Chicago – and also going to some great concerts during those lazy summer months….a time I recall my father saying we should use to "rejuvenate our spirit." And you certainly are doing that while coming up with many great new ideas for your thrillers. Thanks for this!

  4. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Karna: Which suburb? And the concerts are wonderful, aren't they? And Sandy, yes see you soon!

  5. Anonymous

    Love the bike.

  6. Chris Goff

    I was just in Chicago and thought of you. I didn't call because my daughter, Addie, joined me. I signed books at the ALA at the Convention Center on Saturday, but Addie and I had a fabulous time. We walked the lake shore, rode the ferry to Navy Pier, rode the Ferris wheel, dined out, visited the Shedd Aquarium, and had some wonderful mother-daughter time. I remember as a little girl spending time with my mother in Chicago. She was born and raised in Elgin, and, before I was born, she moved into the big city and landed a job as a junior editor for Vogue Magazine. When I was little we would go back and visit my grandmother in Elgin, and each trip meant at least one night downtown. My mother, grandmother and I (my mother and I both being only children) would stay at the Blackstone, go to the theater and shop on Michigan Avenue. So many wonderful memories there.

  7. Jamie Freveletti

    Navy Pier and the Ferris wheel! You did it right. Had no idea your grandmother lived in Elgin. I used to go downtown with mine (she lived in Oak Park) and she'd take us to a Cubs game every year. Always think of her now when I go. Wish I could have seen you but glad you had a good time!

  8. Sonja Stone

    Jamie, I'm so impressed that you constantly brim with ideas. It's not something that happens for all writers (I speak from experience). I'll miss you guys at Thrillerfest! Raise a glass for me!