This week, D. Wallace Peach of Myths of the Mirror challenged her readers to write about their muses. She has many, all with distinct personalities, and the one who appeared to her cut quite an imposing figure. My muse, on the other hand, isn’t corporeal, doesn’t have a name, and annoys the hell out of me.
Cue frenetic electric guitar.
A screaming howl rising to a crescendo.
I can’t stand it, I know you planned it…
Me (groggy): What the f*ck…?
Me: Why are you making me listen to Sabotage at 3 o’clock in the morning?!
Muse: You weren’t asleep anyway. You had an idea and you need to write it down.
Me: No, it’s fine. I’ll remember it in the morning.
Muse: No you won’t. Write it down.
Me: It was only two damned lines. I’ll remember it. Muse: That’s what you said last time. Then you…
Diana Peach at Myths Of The Mirror has prompted us to write about our muse. But what if…
It had been a heck of a day. So many interruptions, but finally I’d settled down to write. That’s when the door bell went.
Mumbling ‘not another bloody parcel,’ I opened the door.
Two men, vaguely familiar in so far as the ski slope nose on one and the beetled brows on the other seemed to chime with some memory, stood, hands lightly clasped in front like mourners at a funeral.
‘Hello? Can I…?’
‘…‘Elp? I should think so, wouldn’t you Johnson?’
‘Hindeed, Johnston I would think so.’
Not sure where this was going I thought I’d wait. They could have been brothers, similar builds, and round faces. Or it might have been the matching dark suits, white shirts and sober ties. There was something rather creepy about…’
Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror has kindly opened her blog to guests with a challenge to write a short story about your muse. Here’s mine:
“It’s your turn.”
I nod absently and continue staring at the board as though the answer is going to appear any time and if I look away for even a millisecond it’ll be gone forever. “I know, just give me a minute, will you?”
“A minute wouldn’t be bad. You’ve been in this exact same place for days now. How do you expect to get anywhere by staring into space?”
He doesn’t understand. It’s not that easy to catch the right word, line, paragraph before it disappears into the ether. “Brilliance takes time,” I tell him.
He snorts. “Pardon me, I didn’t realize you had such high aspirations. Still, you’re not get any younger–“
I took a deep breath. The smell of new electronics hung in the air, giving me some inspiration. My fingers reached down. A modern synth-string sound emanated from the studio speakers. Yes, modern, and yet the strings had a certain sizzle that spoke of the late 1970s. I had spent over an hour getting the sound just how I wanted it.
I listened closely, with my body as much as my ears.
My fingers changed position on their own, so I had a G in the bass. My left hand was also playing a D, with a Bb, D, F and A in the right hand. The smoldering G minor 9th chord just oozed that downtown, cool jazzy feeling. You know the one.
I shifted, without thinking to B Major 7. Yeah, a quick pivot on the Bb/A#. It felt right, and better yet, with that sizzling string…
I’m reading a page-turner in my writing room when I hear conversations below me in the muddy track called “my driveway.” Nobody ever ventures up this mountain besides the solitary UPS driver, and this sounds like a crowd. I peek out the window.
Muses. Lots of muses. What the…?
They fall silent and, as one, swivel to stare at me. Expectant. It appears a decision has been made.
One of them breaks from the pack, and I can’t help but groan. The Mercenary Muse (once subcontracted by my Bossy Muse) starts up the rain-slick stairs.
I open the door and look up, way up. The muse is a hulk, and he smells like a battlefield after a month long campaign. He bares his teeth in a sneer as if I’m the one who needs a shower.
“Where’s my regular muse?” I ask.
“In the ocean.” He tracks muddy prints on my floor and sits on a granite throne that appears in front of my couch. “She’s trying out your next book.”
“Oh really?” I arch my eyebrow and get a little huffy. “You’d think the author would have a say in the next story. What is she, a pirate or a mermaid?”
“A sea witch.” His grin is disturbing, though not as horrifying as his skimpy little outfit. I wish he’d close his legs. Yeesh. “I’m the Ferryman,” he adds.
My eyes snap up, and I blurt out a laugh. “Oh, no, you’re not.”
“Don’t defy a muse.” He glowers through the warning. “I am the Ferryman.”
“Gah!” I lean into his face, nose to crooked nose, angry enough to risk his breath. “No chance, big guy, not unless you submit to a complete makeover. Otherwise, forget it.”
“You’re the author.” He settles back in this throne with a smug smile and picks something from his teeth.
I wrinkle my face and cross my arms like a petulant… author. A Ferryman? And a Sea Witch? Am I actually considering this? I want to throw up but change the subject instead, “So, who are those muses, and what do they want? Don’t tell me they want scenes in the next book.”
He grunts to the negative. “They want some publicity for their authors, and I told them you’d help.”
My eyes narrow. “How?”
The brute leans forward, elbows on his knees. I’m tempted to hand him a toothbrush and bottle of mouthwash. He ignores my grimace. “They’re going to have conversations with their writers, and you’re going to reblog the posts.”
I tap a finger on my lower lip, considering the idea. The last time my blog friends joined in was a blast. And wonderfully creative.
I extend my hand. “Agreed.” We grasp each other’s forearms like warriors, and I squeak as my bones grate together.
“Agreed.” He lets go and heads for the door. “And I want your plot outlined by the end of the month.”
“But… but I’m not done with my reading challenge and now…”
If looks could squash me like a bug, I’d be plastered to the wall. He stomps down the stairs and joins the other muses. His throne fades away, and I peer out the window as the crowd disperses into the rain. I better get a post ready.
Here are the rules:
Post a conversation with your muse on your blog and link back to this post or leave a link in the comments. Don’t have a muse? Just open the door and see who shows up.
No word-limit and keep it family friendly. Include an image of your muse if you’re inclined (with respect for copyrights, please). I’ll reblog all posts received before December 1st. Thanks for playing… Meet the Muse!
My 60-book Autumn Reading Challenge is rolling along. As I hunker down at home, I’ve upped my total of reviewed books to 34.
November’s Part I book reviews includes my 4 and 5 star reads of fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, women’s lit, and two memoirs! I hope you enjoy the browse.
Click on the covers for Amazon global links.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
I picked up this book because I’d heard it’s wonderful (which it is). And as usual, I didn’t bother to browse the blurb, so I was surprised to find myself reading a love story. I’m not usually a fan of love stories, and yet I was enraptured by this beautiful and tender tale. Who knew? (Probably anyone who read the blurb, but that wasn’t me.)
Monty and Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity, go on a “tour” of the Continent before Monty has to settle down and start a respectable life according to his father’s rigid standards. The tour ends up being a quest that involves highwaymen, pirates, sinking tombs, and magical hearts, but honestly, I didn’t care about the quest. Though peppered with vivid characters and clever dialog, the quest was just the backdrop to Monty’s and Percy’s unfolding love story. I wanted to hug them through most of the book, and Monty’s character arc is believable as well as emotionally riveting.
The writing is fabulous and full of droll humor. The first-person story is told from Monty’s pov. He’s a spoiled rich lord – witty and sarcastic and prone to exaggeration. His carefree life is falling apart, and his devil-may-care attitude is getting knocked out of him as he faces himself and his choices. His relationships with Percy and Felicity are perfectly expressed through exceptional dialog and the way the characters care for each other (despite their difficulties). Secondary characters are just as distinct and entertaining.
This is Book 1 in the Montague Siblings series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. Highly recommended!
The Emissary 3: Love Hurts by Marcia Meara
I really wondered how Meara was going to wrap up this series. At the end of book 2, Dodger receives permission from the Archangel Azrael to experience a loving relationship with a girl. But I just couldn’t imagine how it would work between a human and an immortal emissary of the angels. Well, silly me for being skeptical. The author pulls it off beautifully, though not at all how I expected. I was a teary mess.
This is a wonderful series with characters that I completely empathized with. They’re supremely human, emotional, and kind-hearted. Even scary old Azrael is enjoyable as he loosens up a little. Though there are problems to be overcome in the story, the main conflict centers on the challenge I posed above. The ending is brave, believable, and emotionally stunning.
The writing is tight, and the editing is flawless. The books in the Emissary series aren’t long, so they make for quick satisfying reads. I’d definitely recommend starting at the beginning of the series. A wonderful trilogy for readers who enjoy feel-good stories.
Lethal Impact: A Dragon Soul Press Anthology
This post-apocalyptic anthology includes 16 science-fiction tales by 15 authors. These stories border on novelettes, so there are plenty of pages for fabulous world building, rich characters, and interesting plots. What they have in common is the end of civilization as we know it and humans facing a dangerous world where survival requires a whole new set of skills. There are viruses, androids, steel forests, and vicious gangs. Add to that some cannibalism, zombies, and aliens. The stories are highly original and well-edited. My favorites were King’s Note, Eve’s Apple, Blood and Light, Assimilant 620-Singe, and A Little Less Conversation. Highly recommended for sci-fi readers and post-apocalyptic fans.
Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal
This is a light, romantic jaunt from England to India and back again. When Aashi finds a used condom in her fiancé’s bathroom, the wedding is suddenly off. Her family is angry and embarrassed, but they support her decision. A trip to India, originally to purchase a wedding gown, becomes a vacation for Aashi and a chance to unwind and heal. Her two brothers and her best friend Karin go along.
The romantic story is fairly straightforward, and it unfolds at a leisurely pace. What held my attention was the story’s immersion in India’s rich culture and setting, specifically the bustling city of Delhi. The main characters are England born and raised, so the influences of their dual cultures were interesting to see played out, and the details of life in India were fascinating. Bhathal clearly incorporated a wealth of personal experience into the narrative.
The characters are all likeable, except for the cheating fiancé, though I felt a twinge of sympathy for him by the end. All in all, this story was about family, culture, self-esteem and independence, love and friendship. Recommended for readers of romance and women’s lit.
The Wind Weeps by Anneli Purchase
The Wind Weeps starts off as a romance and gradually shifts to a tension-filled walk on the high-wire of domestic violence. Andrea is a naïve and insecure single woman who, despite warnings from her friends, rebounds after a very short relationship into the arms of a charming man with a dark side.
The story takes place in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, beautiful and rugged country where commercial fishermen make their livings. The author’s familiarity with the area and with the details of the industry lend an incredible amount of authenticity to the narrative. As Andrea’s life becomes geographically isolated, she falls into more and more danger. I was on the edge of my seat.
The plot moves along at a good clip once things get tense. The writing is polished with well-rounded, consistent, and interesting characters. I wanted to shake some sense into Andrea in the beginning, but was quickly caught up in her fearful situation and her determination to save herself. The book offers an honest look at domestic violence, including why women are sometimes slow to make a break. My only complaint would be the abrupt ending; however, the story continues with a second book: The Reckoning Tide. Recommended to readers who enjoy a mash up of romance and suspense and plan to read both books.
Words We Carry by D. G. Kaye
D. G. Kaye shares the true story of her growth from a child with poor self-esteem into a confident woman who changed her thinking, took responsibility for her relationships, and discovered happiness. Though she shares her personal experiences, many of her observations are common to other women, and there are lessons to be gleaned from her advice.
The book is divided into two sections: Appearance and Relationships. The focus of the appearance section is on boosting self-esteem by paying attention to physical appearance. It isn’t about being beautiful, but about feeling beautiful and investing energy into clothes, shoes, hair, and makeup that enhance a woman’s strengths and make her feel attractive. Chronic lazy dressers like me may not relate to Kaye’s love of shoes and big hair, but there’s a lot of humor in this section that kept me smiling.
Section Two, Relationships, was the most meaningful to me as it opened a discussion of the deeper issues that contribute to low self-esteem, as well as the vicious cycles that can lead to isolation, depression, and abuse. The author maintains that healthy self-esteem is essential to healthy relationships of all kinds. She provides strategies for evaluating relationships honestly, changing patterns, and taking control of choices.
Words We Carry is part memoir/part self-help. Recommended for women who are struggling with feelings of low self-esteem and want to make a positive change in their relationships and lives.
Shorts: a take on poetry by Eric Daniel Clarke
As the title of Clarke’s anthology states, the poems in this vast collection are generally short in length and spare of words, drilling down to the essence of thought and experience. To me, the poetic style was one that frequently invited contemplation and interpretation. The poems range from a few lines to several stanzas, and in most cases, they explore the reality of relationships. My favorite poems were Life’s Lights, Promises, Called Your Name, and the heartbreaking poem Forgotten:
I don’t remember everything dates and place escape me moments spent with you fade and forsake me too
Strange faces begin to haunt with their smiles and tears I still know I love you ask of you one thing
When I don’t know you all our years forgotten I beg no regrets be free let me forget to breathe
Recommended to poetry readers who enjoy a unique style and generous selection of poems.
My Gentle War by Joy Lennick
This memoir focuses primarily on the years 1939 through 1941 when the author was 9-11 years old, a child living in Wales with her younger brothers during WWII. The children were sent to Wales to escape the more dangerous areas around London.
This isn’t a harsh story. It’s a recounting of life from the perspective of a child and is, therefore, full of fun and imagination and resilience. There are “ear-wigging” glimpses into the adult world, news of the war, and letters from the author’s dad who was serving in France. The sad and confusing realities of war surely intrude on daily life, but the focus is on friends and relatives, memorable gatherings and events. There are new trousers, dance performances, and games of truth or dare!
Lennick’s writing is witty and conversational, and she includes a handful of poems commemorating particular memories. Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the brief jump ahead at the end to the conclusion of the war. The feeling of joy is palpable in the pages.
As Lennick concludes: “Oh the puzzling juxtaposition of every-day events, the ordinary, the extraordinary and the tragedies of life.” That sums up this book perfectly. Recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs of the war years.
Waaaay back in my infanblogcy, I stumbled upon D. Wallace Peach. Maybe I followed a trail of adoring fans; maybe I read an entry she did for Carrot Ranch; or maybe her reputation guided my searchings. I still recall the very first blog post I read: a snippet from a book she wrote about a girl witnessing an execution and feeling emotions where she was not supposed to. The idea was that people did not feel and the girl was an aberration.
At that point, I vowed I would purchase and read one of Diana’s books. This year, I did so. In fact, I did so twice because she released a brand-new series: Unraveling the Veil.
When I asked D. Wallace about my doing a review and Q&A after reading the first book, she agreed! D. is one of the most…
When I started this series, back in July of 2018, I had no idea that I’d be finishing it up in late October of 2020, a year later than planned.
I couldn’t have imagined that my parents’ health would take a nose dive with E.coli, heart attacks, and a stroke. Nor that the world would be dealing with a rampaging virus and all the associated anxiety. Who knew that Chaos would become the order of the day – on and off the page?
But writing is about perseverance, determination, patience. Those who’ve finished books, regardless of the everyday chaos in their lives, know what I’m talking about. There’s no easy path up the mountain, and sometimes the journey becomes strenuous. There are cramps. There are blisters. We’re grubby and worn out when we get to top. But what a breathtaking view!
So here I stand at the top of my little summit, enjoying the sunshine and leafing through the latest book. Lords of Chaos finishes up the Unraveling the Veil series. I wonder what awaits me on the other side.
In this thrilling conclusion to the Unraveling the Veil series, tensions mount and war looms.
After saving the changeling queen from a savage death, a second sworn oath sends Naj, Alue, and Talin to the mine where the first disappearances set the wheels of anarchy in motion. But it’s not the renders of Kalann il Drakk, the First of Chaos, who confront them in the blackness of the collapsed tunnels. It’s another foe, no less deadly.
When brutality strikes in the stone cells of the Authority, accusations and blame splinter trust. The fragile threads of loyalty that once bound the companions together on an impossible mission fray. The alliance finally breaks.
Naj, a goblin mage and traitor, returns to Jad’ra, determined to defend his home. With nothing to lose, Talin retreats to the changelings’ jungle to find his queen a stranger and his city on the verge of burning. Alue journeys to the Riverlands on a hopeless quest to enlist the aid of the elfin king.
All the while, the First of Chaos gloats. For only as allies will his three adversaries prevail. Above the hall of the First, the Veil vanishes before the truth. The hordes of chaos descend on the known land, and the final battle begins.
Goblins, elves, and changelings—they’d lived together for ages in an uneasy peace, in a world where only a Veil separated them from their gods. They’d successfully shared their world, but it was unclear if they could continue to share its resources.
All of them desired crystals. The goblins mined them, elves needed them to power their weapons and homes, and changelings used to them to shift shape. Goblins trusted no one—they carefully rationed the crystals available to their rivals. Elves knew better than to trust the lesser races—goblins were grasping and changelings were nothing but thieves. And changelings knew better than to trust either of them. Elves collared changelings and prevented them from shifting shape, and goblins were a humorless lot who cared only for amassing wealth.
But now their world is literally coming apart. A rash of earthquakes causes losses from all three races, and all of them are certain that one of the others is at fault. Alue, an elf, the goblin Naj, and the shapeshifter Talin all try to solve the mystery and save their people. But what hasn’t occurred to any of them is that someone beyond the Veil might be responsible. And if they can’t see past their own prejudices to figure out how to defeat an immortal, the Lord of Chaos may well defeat them all.
Fantasy readers sometimes argue over the most important elements of a good book. Is it unique world building, characters who seem to live and breathe of their own accord, or a plot that just never lets up? Snappy dialogue, intense action sequences, and characters who struggle to grow—these are all elements that writers labor to incorporate into their work.
Fear not. Liars and Thieves has all these things. As a first book of a trilogy, it’s a solid, compelling read—highly recommended.