Meet the Muse (prompt)

Adobe Stock image

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.

My Mercenary Muse (aka Discipline). Artwork by Peter Pham

“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: (prompt now closed)

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!

A visit from the bossy muse, a free book, and a couple of awards

The muse’s latest look (pixabay compilation)

Way too early in the morning, my muse drops down beside me on my couch and tosses her hat onto the coffee table. The howler monkey that’s been riding her shoulder for a year leaps onto my kitchen counter, curls back its rubbery lips, and flashes a yellow-toothed grin. The muse hands me a latte. “Nice progress on the draft… finally.”

“Thanks.” I’m still leering at the monkey but manage to sip my latte. Yum. “So, why the visit?  You know I’m under NaNo pressure.” I somehow forget to mention that yesterday I logged zero words.

She arches an eyebrow but for once shrugs off her annoyance. “I’m running a promotion for a couple of days. Catling’s Bane is free today and Wednesday. Your sales blah blah blah…” I’m not listening. The howler’s opened my refrigerator and taken a bite from a head of lettuce. He’s going for the orange juice.

I bolt up. “Hey! Out of there!” The beast roars at me, a sound capable of bursting eardrums. He grabs a tuna sandwich I made for my husband’s lunch, darts across the cabin’s single room, and climbs halfway up the stairs. Suspended from the banister, he gobbles and spills bits of sandwich on the furniture below. UGH. I sink back onto the couch and glower, afraid any further intervention will make it worse.

“What else,” I ask, wanting to get this over with as quickly as I can.

She smiles at me. My muse never smiles. “Two of your books were semi-finalists in the 2019 Kindle Book Awards.”

“What?” I’ve now forgotten all about the howler and the globs of tuna sprinkling my floor. I’d also forgotten that I submitted books. “Both of them?”

Sunweilder and Soul Swallowers.” She tips back her latte, stands, and snaps her fingers at the monkey. Not two seconds later, the creature swings from the banister onto her shoulder. My muse heads for the door, her familiar bossy ill-humor sliding onto her face. “Get to work.”

“I plan on it. After I clean up this mess.” As she walks out the door and into the forest, I call after her, “Hey, if I finish my first draft, can we lose the monkey?”

She glances back and slips me an evil smile.

***

I guess the muse’s visit could have gone a lot worse.

Click on the cover if you’re interested in a free kindle of Catling’s Bane:

 

And here are those semi-finalists:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!

My bossy muse returns

The muse’s latest look (all images from pixabay)

My muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She’s a shapeshifter, and she isn’t known for her sweetness or patience, so I’m not sure what to expect when I open my writing room door.

I know she’s there because of the howler monkey roaring at me from the banister of the outside staircase (and I don’t live near a jungle). “Shoo, shoo,” I order, flapping a hand. I slip past and shut the door before the beast tries to bite or groom me.

A glaive

The muse is sitting on my futon, flipping a knife, a pistol-thing in a holster at her hip. Against the wall rests a double-bladed glaive that looks like it could take my head off, maybe twice. My instincts tell me to take my chances with the monkey.

“How’s the book coming?” She arches an eyebrow. Sarcasm leaches from her pores.

I lean on the door, arms crossed. “I had a hectic summer.”

She puts her boots up on my coffee table. The knife spins above her head, and she grabs it out of the air before it stabs her. “I’ll give you a pass… this time. But I want some progress. You’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year – 50,000 words by the end of November.”

I wrinkle my nose into my “stinky-smell” face while panic flutters in my chest like a caged sparrow. “You realize that November is tomorrow. I haven’t prepped. I haven’t even signed up. I barely have an outline. And need I remind you, NaNo is a ton of work!”

“So, get over it.” She practically rolls her eyes. “You’re a writer. Writing is a ton of work.”

“I know, but I’m having trouble even envisioning this story. Your suggestion of goblins and shapeshifters isn’t clicking. It’s not my thing.”

“Trust me.” She gives me a sly grin full of evil, musey intent.

“Can I fire you?” I ask, only half-joking.

She ignores me and sheaths her knife. “I want you to add elves to the mix.”

“Elves?” Now she’s struck a nerve. I pretend to gag. “That’s your solution? Ugh. I don’t even like elves. Their too Tolkien, too… elfish. I love Tolkien, but… ugh. I’d feel like I’m writing a spin-off. Ugh, yuck.”

My muse sighs at my immaturity. “You don’t write spin-offs.”

I still can’t get the elf-taste off my tongue, but since that sounded like a compliment of sorts, I cease gagging and plop down beside her. “Thank you, but elves?”

“What do you have against elves?” She tucks a lock of hair behind her pointed ear, and I groan. “It’s not like I’m insisting on dwarves.”

“Dwarves? As in Thorin and Balin, or gnomes with red hats? Even worse! Thank you for not ruining my life. Elves are bad enough. Yeesh.” I’m starting to feel incredibly cranky under all this pressure. “And what’s with the gun thing? I don’t write guns either.”

“It’s a pulser.” She pulls it from her holster and rests it on the table. “I’ll leave it to you to figure out how it works as well as its limitations. I want you to stretch, Peach. Write something different, something challenging.”

I slouch and put on my grumpy face. “Shapeshifters, goblins, and elves, oh my.”

She smirks and gives my shoulder a hearty shake before rising to her feet and grabbing her glaive. “Once you get started, I’ll help. It’s my job.” She opens the door, and the howler jumps into her arms.

While she clomps down the stairs, I stand at the banister outside my door. Through the dense trees, dawn’s thin light is green and liquid. The monkey barks at me from my muse’s arms, and another annoying thought pops into my head. I have to ask. “And I suppose one of the settings is a jungle? You know I’ve never lived in a jungle.”

“That’s called research,” she yells and glances at me over her shoulder, wicked half-smile curling her lips. “Have fun.”

She fades into the forest. I shut the door, open my laptop, and google NaNoWriMo. Ready or not, time to sign up.

***

My blogging time will be a bit sparse this month. But I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve too. Elves? Really? Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muse for Hire

Amazing artwork by Peter Pham

The day is half over and I open the door to my writing room. My coffee sloshes over the rim at my sudden halt. The man’s jaw swivels my way, and I swallow. “Um…Who are you?”

“Your muse,” he growls.

“Oh.” I edge into the room and leave the door cracked for a quick escape. “Where’s my other one? You know, the… usual one?”

He stares at me like I’m a bug. “She hired me.”

“You’re a mercenary muse?” I trap a nervous laugh behind my lips. The guy looks cranky. Dried sweat coats his bulging muscles, and bloody grit etches the gold lions adorning his skimpy outfit.

He points a finger at a wooden chair, my humming laptop on the table beside it. “I’m here to make sure you keep your commitments.”

“What commitments?” I sit, my smile as shaky as my hands.

“Summer off, then a new series, full time, starting September first.” He taps his ragged fingernails on the armrest. “Your muse thinks you’re an oil-tongued shirker who’ll attempt to cut yourself a part-time deal. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Oh, that. Well, I’ll have you know, the prep work is coming along nicely.” I lift my chin, every speck of rickety indignation putting on a solid show, and I turn my laptop so he can see. “In fact, I’ve created a map!”

His lips curl in a sneer. “Don’t get cute. She says you love making maps, so that doesn’t count. What about the rest? The bios?”

“Ninety percent done.”  I show him the files – images and profiles for all main characters and most secondaries. “I’m still tweaking, but you know they don’t settle in until the story starts. World building is progressing too. I have sea-cliffs, waterfalls, and cities with layers of arching bridges. And, I’ve got a great magic system.”

I wasn’t expecting applause, but a smidgeon of encouragement wouldn’t have hurt. Instead, his little pellets for eyes are waiting to pelt me. “What about the outline?”

I wince. The story is there, but the goals and obstacles aren’t strong enough. The subplots are solid, but the main plot is nebulous at best. That’s a huge problem. My muse-from-hell leans forward in his throne and does he ever smell ripe. He opens his mouth, revealing a rack of chipped teeth, and spits out two words, “It sucks.”

“Gah! I know!” I wilt in my chair. “I should have started working on it sooner. This is a tough one because –“

“You have one week to finish your outline.”

“But–“

“One week.” He leans back. “Then I want two thousand words a day, six days a week, and I’m being generous.”

I bite my lips and do the math. It’s a stretch, but I can probably manage it. “But what about blogging? I’ve been blogging ten hours a day…”

“You’re going to write in the mornings,” he orders. “It’s your most creative time. Two thousand words, and then you can blog all you want.”

“That’s going to cut my blogging time in half,” I whine. “It’ll already be night in the UK when I just get started.”

“They’ll survive. They’re grown-ups.”

“But I enjoy blogging. I’m going to miss posts.” I know he’s right, but I’m already undergoing blog-withdrawal.

He scowls at me. “She said you’d snivel, but I didn’t think you’d be this pathetic.”

“You don’t need to be so mean about it.” I push out my lower lip. Yeesh, what a hard ass. “Fine. I’ll write in the morning, blog after I reach my quota.”

His grin turns my stomach. “One other thing.”

“Now, what?”

“You need to exercise.”

“You’re kidding me. My muse told you that?”

“She didn’t need to. I can see it myself. One hour a day. Cardio and strengthening.”

“Oh, this is just great. A muse who doubles as a personal trainer.” I hate his smug smirk. “Where do I find the time to do that?”

“Figure it out.” On his feet, the guy hulks over me like a troll, and I lean so far back I’m close to toppling my chair.  He taps my chin with his meaty fist. “I’ll be checking in; don’t disappoint me.”

I roll my eyes and rub my forehead, a muse-induced headache forming behind my eyes. Through the window, I watch him clomp down the steps from my writing room and join my other muse, The Traitor, in the driveway. They share a good laugh. Damn muses. I wish they weren’t right.

Guess I better get to work.

***

Needless to say, I’ll be switching around my blogging schedule. Though I’ll miss a few posts here and there, I’ll be visiting as much as I’m able. Enjoy the last of August, and Happy Blogging.

Ultimatum from the Muse

the-muse

I’ve returned from my visit to my parents to find my muse practicing with her staff in the driveway. I see that she’s swapped her doeskin for some sci-fi gear that only a muse can pull off … barely. She gives me the weasel eye and impales a fence post with a shot of blue light at forty yards. Show off.

There’s a difference between writing and editing. Creative writing strikes me as right brain, the realm of poetry, music, art, and imagination. It’s intuitive and fluid. The other side, the left brain editor in chief, is practical and logical. It’s the domain of concrete language, organization, detail, and processes.

For the past eight months, I’ve been the nerd with the black-framed glasses, chewing on a pencil as I hunch over my books, one by one crossing off adverbs, fixing commas, and deleting dialog tags. My muse gave up on me in April and moved out.

She’s been lurking, though. I caught glimpses of her at the forest’s edge, keeping a keen eye out for a spark of fantasy while she communed with the green world and watched the night sky with the coyotes. When I heard the hoot of evening owls, I knew she was out there, waiting.

Apparently, she’s run out of patience.

“I’m back,” I state the obvious. “Want to come in?”

Not troubling to reply, she follows me up the rickety stairs to my writing room, her strange boots clomping up the steps. Today, she’s taller than I, a lithe flame-haired elf to my frumpy hobbit, and the small space forces her to duck. She sits across from me on a stone bench that suddenly appears along one wall, elbows on her knees, a wary spark in her green eyes. The magic staff rests against the wall, brimming with latent power. “Are you still a writer or do I go elsewhere?” she asks.

“Are you still brooding or do I need a new muse?” Two can play at that game.

She stretches out her long legs, arms crossed, her chin at a tilt. “You used to write ten hours a day. You were dedicated.”

“I’ve been busy. I had books to transition, babysitting for the Overlord, a patio to complete, my parents to visit.”

“All completed and the Overlord started preschool.”

“See. More time to write.”

“Write or blog?”

Ah, there’s what’s got her leggings in a knot. “Both,” I reply. “I have a lot of followers and more every day. I like reading their posts. They’re inspiring and talented.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“And I should grow my blog, right? Social media is an important part of building a brand, of being an author.”

She narrows her eyes. “At least do me the courtesy of telling the truth.”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes like a teenager caught with the car keys. “I just enjoy it. Blogging is fun, and I’ve connected with some wonderful people that I count as friends.”

“Maybe you need a blogging muse.”

“No.” I scowl at her. “I’m a writer.”

“Are you? How many hours will you write a day?” She’s trying to pin me down and I’m squirming.

“Four.” I toss it out with a wince.

“Insufficient. You’re wasting my time.” She gets to her feet, sleek and swift as a panther, and snatches up her staff.

“Five,” I shout. “Minimum of five.”

“Barely adequate.” She faces me, her eyes catching a glint of fire from the stained-glass window. “It’s a start, but I want a commitment. I want your oath.”

“Really? An oath? You’re kidding, right?” I groan, but she’s unimpressed. “Do I have to kneel?”

“Whatever suits you. I want five hours a day, six days a week. Swear it.”

I inhale and blow out a sigh. To my core, I know this is good for me. I need the discipline and the balance. My blogging time will go down a bit, but not terribly. “I give you my oath that I will write five hours a day, six days a week including blog posts.”

She studies me, deciding on my amended version.

“Blog posts count as writing,” I say with whining authority.

“Fine.”

I huff at her. “Fine.”

“Get to work.”

“Fine, I will.”

A smile quirks her lips. “It’s good to have you back.”

I return the smile, a small concession to her value. “I’m glad you stayed.”

**

Once again seeking balance.
Wrote all day yesterday and it felt wonderful.

A Space to Write

Virginia-Woolf-lock-up-your-libraries-quote

Spring has arrived in the mountains. It’s always a couple weeks later than down in the valley, and though the mornings are still frosty, the leaves have unfurled, and the dogwood wears its white petals. I’ve filled the hummingbird feeders and opened the windows to capture the afternoon sun.

And my writer’s room beckons.

In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Well, that money thing would be convenient, wouldn’t it? Yet, it’s not a prerequisite for writing in my mind. Time strikes me as the rarer commodity.

But what about that room of her (or his) own, that “must” for the imagination to bloom?  A sacred space of quiet and solitude without the common daily distractions of television, movies, and videogames? A space where a writer can shut the door?

100_0983When I moved to the mountains, there was a half-finished room above my husband’s shop. I claimed it as my writing room and made it my own. Out went the spiders. I spackled and painted, installed a floor, tiled around the wood stove.

The walls are jewel tones, a change from the lovely but abundant wood in our log home. I stenciled falling leaves, hung dream catchers, and lugged in some well-loved furniture. The stairs are still rickety and the door doesn’t close well, but it’s peace, it’s immersion. The muse resides there, waiting expectantly for me.

100_0989I don’t use my writing haven in the winter, despite the wood stove. The windows aren’t tight, and a fire would require more effort than I’m willing to expend, especially since my writing day starts at 4 in the morning.

But once spring comes…

100_0991Today, I hustled out the new brood of spiders and cleaned up the bat poop from my nighttime freeloader. My walls will soon hum, as they’re loaded with bees. A bouquet of wildflowers and branches of cherry blossoms draws in the hummingbirds. They fly in the arched window, wings thrumming as they hover over my head.

Tomorrow, I’ll write.

Do you have a sacred space, a room, a closet, a special chair where you write? How have you made it yours?