Updates and a Quick Trip around the Writerverse

Time to bring you up to speed on my progress, and highlight some other writers’ goings-on!

Writing at the Reinstein Library. #amwriting #overalls #vintage #Key #HickoryStripe #scarf #r2d2

One: I wanted to publish GhostCop in July, but I’m pushing that to September because I’ve been mulling things over and I realize that I want/need to tweak a few things. It’s all minor stuff, but stuff I need to address so as to make the book more resonant (I hope). I’ll tackle those revisions (shouldn’t take more than a few days) after I finish first edits on Forgotten Stars III.

Two: Hey, what about Forgotten Stars III? Well, I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be by now, but I still hope to get the book to beta-readers by mid-April. I hit a mini-slump last week (in general writing terms), and I had consecutive chapters that were, shall we say, a bit problematic. These chapters required a bit more editorial heavy lifting than I’m used to. Luckily, as I write this, I have moved past that particular obstacle! Huzzah!!

Three: Lighthouse Boy continues a-chugging along. This book is going to be enormous, so I’m leaning toward breaking it into two books anyway. The draft is currently at about 175,000 words, and there will likely be another 25-30K before the draft reaches a logical break point in the story, so I’m probably going to call BOOK ONE done and and start writing a GhostCop sequel.

Four: Oh, did I mention that I have the title for GhostCop? No? Well, I have the title for GhostCop. I’ll announce that later in the summer, when my plans for that book’s release start to ramp up.

Five: What’s after that? Well, I’m planning on a break from the Forgotten Stars series after Book III. I’m actually planning a second series of space operas that will take place in the exact same universe, but they won’t be a part of the Forgotten Stars story at all (in fact, they may not even take place at the same time as those books) and they’ll have a more adult tone. I’m thinking a mashup of James Bond and Firefly. We’ll see. I already have ideas for these, and I’ve even started character sketches (which is something I rarely do, but I thought I’d give it a shot this time).

Six: There is no six. That’s about it.

And now for some goings-on with other writers I know and love!

::  Writer Jenna Woginrich has posted an excerpt from a book she’s writing about her relationship with her horse, Merlin. Woginrich is one of my favorite online personalities, and she’s a damned fine writer. Her dream was to live on her own farm and being a part of a farm community, and she decided some years ago to do just that. If you’re in want of inspiration for tenaciously grabbing hold of the life you want, check her out.

I still remember parking it on my parents’ wrap-around porch and telling it, no, promising it, that I would write about it someday. There on the slate-blue paint leaning against a white railing I promised a bike from Kmart that I would write a book about her. So that’s what I’m going to do. Kind of.

Let’s hit the wind.

::  Ksenia Anske on being denied her brain:

Because I was born a woman, I was the second sort from the moment I got out of my mother’s womb. I was abused. I was underfed. I was neglected. I was dismissed. I was told I was wrong, no matter how hard I tried to please. But worst of all, I was denied my brain.

Powerful stuff.

::  I have to admit that I am long past the point where I find inspiration in the rejection letters of big-name writers. But hey, check out JK Rowling’s rejection letters from her Robert Galbraith novel, if you like that sort of thing.

::  All-around fab person Briana Mae Morgan wrote a play called Touch, and she posted it, one scene at a time, on her blog. Here’s Act I, Scene I. (It’s in two acts. I can’t vouch for it because I haven’t read it yet, but Briana’s awesome, so I’m sure it’s fine.)

::  Sara Letourneau on the astonishing masterpieces that are the three scores to the Lord of the Rings films, by Howard Shore. She names favorite cues and everything! Good stuff. That music is amazing and makes for great writing music as well. (That reminds me…write a post about music and writing….)

That’s all for now. See you around the Galaxy!

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AuthorLifeMonth!

Well, I got busy and then I got the flu and then…yada yada yada, I guess. However, if you recall, last month was “AuthorLifeMonth” on Instagram, so here are the rest of my entries!

Day 12 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Killed Darlings. This is how the first novel I wrote began. It was an Arthurian epic fantasy that told the story of Arthur's return to Britain in her time of need. I had a lot of nifty ideas for this story, some of which I stil

Day 12 was “Killed Darlings”. “Kill your darlings” is a common bit of advice for writers; it means that you can’t get overly attached to things in your writing, if removing them would make the writing better. It also means letting projects go, which is what this represents: my first attempt at writing a novel, an Arthurian fantasy called The Promised King. It was intended as a duology, and I actually got the first one, The Welcomer, finished and posted it online in blog form. But some stuff happened in the mid-2000s, and as way leads on to way…I doubt I’ll ever come back this way again. I did learn a lot from writing that book, though.

Next is Day 13, “Favorite Books in the Genre”.

Day 13 of #AuthorLifeMonth! Favorite books in genre. Here are two books each from SF, Fantasy, and horror/supernatural. These are all amazing books.
Here we have two books each from my preferred genres: fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I could take variants of this photo all day and still have books to use!

Day 14 was “Favorite Cover”. I figured this meant favorite cover of our own, but I only have two and I can’t possibly pick between them, so I went elsewhere: the wonderful cover for Nicholas Basbanes’s book A Gentle Madness, which is about book collecting:

Day 14 of #AuthorLifeMonth brings us to Favorite Cover. I love both of mine and they are meant to look as part of a larger set, so I'm interpreting this one as "favorite cover to someone else's book". This, the cover to Nicholas Basbanes's wonderful A GEN

Who wouldn’t want to read that!

Day 15 was “Swag”. All I have right now are business cards.

Day 15 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Swag! All I have right now are these business cards. I plan to have bookmarks printed later this year. Maybe buttons, too! #amwriting

Day 16 was “Where you write”. This photo is my workroom at the day job; I often use my thirty-minute lunch period as a writing session.

Day 16 of #AuthorLifeMonth! One of my main writing spaces is my worktable at The Store (home of the day job), where I've taken to using my 30-minute lunch breaks for writing. I also like cafes and libraries, along with the deck of my house. This year I'm

Yes, it’s cramped, but I do tend to do well in tight spaces. (Not that open spaces freak me out, or anything.)

Day 17 brought us “Where You Relax”. I love to kick back and read at home, but there’s also some very real spiritual revitalization to be found in the woods and forests and along the rocky streambeds of Western New York. I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but the last year or so, with the dog as my partner…it’s becoming nearly an obsession.

Day 17 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Where I relax. For me, it's all about the forests of WNY and Erie County. This is Sprague Brook Park, one of my favorite haunts, a bit farther away from Casa Jaquandor than most. Hiking in nature "regrounds" me, if that makes s

Day 18 was “Research”, so here’s a part of the background work for The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy: the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. Reading in the genre is research, for me; I like to get an idea of what kinds of tales can and have been told, as well as seeing if I can figure out various tricks of those trades.

Day 18 of #AuthorLifeMonth (which I missed): Research! I don't do a lot of direct research, in the usual sense. I look things up as I need them, or I do a lot of "grab bag" reading and let the brain do its witches' cauldron thing. I also try to read in th

That’s it for now. More to come, sooner than later!

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It’s still #AuthorLifeMonth!

So the AuthorLifeMonth thing on Instagram is still going strong, and it’s been a lot of fun, seeing what other writers are doing with their lives! Here are my posts to that hashtag since last week:

Day Five was “Comp Covers”, which a lot of folks took to mean “rough drafts of our book covers”. Here’s a comparison of the first attempt at the Stardancer cover, on left, with the final, on right.

Day 5 of #AuthorLifeMonth! I'm not sure what "comp covers" means, but it seems to be 'rough drafts' for covers. Left is the first cover design for STARDANCER, and on right is the final design. #books #amwriting

But then someone else told me that “comp covers” refers to covers of similar books in our genre, so here are a couple of those!

Day 5a of #AuthorLifeMonth! Apparently "comp covers" actually refers to books similar to our own in terms of genre, mood, and such. Here are a few for me: the amazing "Across The Universe" trilogy by @bethrevis, and the equally wondeful "These Broken Star

(Yes, I’ve read those, and they are terrific.)

Next came “Fan art”, which left me at a loss, since to my knowledge, nobody has done any “fan art” of anything I’ve written yet, alas! But hey, I’ll get there. Instead I posted this depiction of a girl reading The Fault In Our Stars, which another reader used to show her reaction to reading The Wisdomfold Path.

It's Day 6 of #AuthorLifeMonth! Today is "fan art". I don't really have any fan art yet, but @americaseditor used this little cartoon a while back to illustrate her reaction to THE WISDOMFOLD PATH while reading it. (The cartoon actually seems to refer to

(No, there is no cancer in The Wisdomfold Path, but it does get emotional in spots.)

Next up was “Writing Music”, so I did a quick collage of some CD covers from favorite film scores of mine, in the genres I write (SF, Fantasy, Horror/Supernatural Thriller).

Day 7 of #AuthorLifeMonth is Writing Music! I listen to music a lot when I write. I love movie music, and here's a smattering of filmscores for various genres in which I work. Top row: fantasy and adventure music (lots of this right now for LIGHTHOUSE BOY

For “Awesome Moment”, I went ‘throwback’ to the photo I took just after I typed the words “The End” in the first draft of Stardancer. I’d done it, folks!

Day 8 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Awesome moment! We're going throwback, to the moments after I typed the words "THE END" at the conclusion of STARDANCER. I knew, at that moment, that I was on my way. To where? I don't know, but I'm heading for the second star t

Day Nine was “Challenge Overcome”. For this I alluded to the struggle a lot of indie writers have to endure: formatting our books. Ewwww!

It's Day 9 of #AuthorLifeMonth! Today the theme is "Challenge Overcome". I write writr write, then I edit edit edit, and through all this, I'm OK. Then it's time to format, and I want to set my computer on fire. #amwriting

Day Ten brought us to “Non-author Photo”. This was a fun tag to peruse. I just picked a few of mine and collaged them. I doubt I’ll ever appear pie-faced on one of my own book covers.

Day 10 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Non-author photo(s)! I couldn't pick just one, so here are a few. Featuring overalls and pies, of course.

Finally, we come to yesterday’s category, “Favorite Review”. I couldn’t pick one, so I went my own xkcd route:

Day 11 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Fave review! I can't possibly pick one. I am grateful if every good review I've been lucky enough to receive, and I'm lucky to have enjoyed good beta and proof reading to this point. Everybody is awesome! (But I do need more re

More to come next week! And just for good measure, here are a couple of recent writing-related photos of mine that are not a part of the AuthorLifeMonth tag.

The Angry-looking Purple Writer #amwriting #overalls

Blunt self-honesty is crucial when editing. #amwriting

When readers say they miss my characters! 😍😭 #swoon #amwriting #indiebooksbeseen

Another 5-star review for THE WISDOMFOLD PATH! Why not find out what the fuss is about? Go to forgottenstars.net for more info! #books #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks #amwriting

Moments like this make it ALL worthwhile. Thanks, @flightofthelionheart! #amwriting

Red Pen Time may be my favorite part of this process. #editing #amwriting

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“We don’t have time to do one thing at a time!”

In a comments thread on another writer’s Instagram feed the other day, the question of how to multi-task as a writer came up. Here is my approach:

Sooner or later in anything written by Aaron Sorkin, somebody will say: “We don’t have time to do one thing at a time!” It’s always uttered in a time of a big flurry of activity, usually by one of Our Heroes, as they gear up for several conflicts at once.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I have first drafts to write and I have existing drafts to edit. I don’t have time to do one thing at a time!

I used to try, of course. I’ve been drafting an Alexandre Dumas-inspired fantasy novel for nearly three years now, which I code-name (for lack of an actual title) The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (because it deals with the adventures of a young man who, at the beginning of the book, helps his father maintain a lighthouse). I ran into problems with it, because it was taking a long time to write, and I ran into the point when I really needed to work on edits for Stardancer.

So I shelved Lighthouse Boy (also in part because at the time I was having trouble with its story). Then I edited Stardancer and wrote the first draft of Ghostcop (again, not the actual title). Then I returned to Lighthouse Boy. Then I put Lighthouse Boy aside again because I needed to edit The Wisdomfold Path and start writing Forgotten Stars III and edit Ghostcop and so on. Now, I’m back to drafting Lighthouse Boy.

Oh, and another problem: all those times I shelved Lighthouse Boy, I lost touch with the story, so that both times I returned to it, I ended up starting it over.

Now it’s time to edit Forgotten Stars III, do final revisions on Ghostcop, and…well, it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t have time to do one thing at a time.

So, do I shelve Lighthouse Boy yet again? Knowing that I’m going to have to probably restart it yet again if I return to it? Knowing also that the book is my Big Doorstop Fantasy (seriously, this thing is going to be in excess of 200,000 words), my choices are to either keep on drafting it even while I work on other projects, or let all those other projects sit on the back burner until I get this one job done.

Neither of those appeals to me, because I’m also thinking in terms of my career here. I want to release at least one book a year for a while, which means continuing the Forgotten Stars series (with a probable break of two years between Books III and IV), launch the Ghostcop series, launch another space opera series that I haven’t even started yet, and eventually, release Lighthouse Boy, in what format, I’m not sure. (I’ve been thinking about serializing, but that’s for a much later time.)

I simply do not have time to one thing at a time!

So, then: since I have to multitask by working on projects at the same time, how do I do it? Well, I’ve set up a few rules:

1. Only ONE first-draft book at any time.

This is important because I don’t want any co-mingling of voices from one book to the other. The Forgotten Stars books have a tone that’s different from Ghostcop, and I fear that if I try writing a first draft of two books at once, it will be hard to maintain voice. (It may also be hard to maintain consistency, as I think I would almost certainly wind up favoring one book over the other, and that will simply not do.)

2. In a day’s work, the first-draft book gets precedence.

So far, I’ve been pretty good about drafting every day and also editing every day. But if the choice comes up — and occasionally it does, because this is Life and not just Writing — then I have to do the first-draft work first, before I write anything else. This means that my early-morning writing sessions — the 40 minutes or so I write before I get ready for work, from 6:10 to 6:50 am — are exclusively for drafting.

3. When I have to work on two projects per day, I lower the quota on the drafting project to 500 words a day.

This may sound like too much, but for me, it isn’t. Maintaining a daily quota is very important to me. Without one, I end up slacking too much. Usually my quota is 1500 words a day, if I don’t have anything else going on. But for me, 1500 words takes up a nice chunk of time, and it’s too much time if I also need to do some serious editing. Thus I lower it to 500 words, which hey, isn’t that bad anyway! It’s about one page of text in a mass-market paperback, so if you keep that pace for long enough, you can write an entire novel in a year. (Depending on how long your novel is, of course.)

4. Once I achieve the drafting project’s quota for the day, I don’t touch it again until the next day.

I like doing this because it really guards against burnout and keeps me energized on this book. I find that by not allowing myself to go very far beyond the quota (I often wind up around 650-700 words), it’s easier to jump back in the next day. It’s the “keep plugging away” approach: “Slow and steady wins the race”, or should I say, “gets the book written”.

I do raise the quota on weekends to 1000 words each day, and when I get to a point when I’m still drafting this book but the other projects are either caught up or on hold, I’ll up the quota again until things change.

5. Try not to have both projects be in the same genre.

This is important to me. I firmly believe in genre-hopping to keep fresh and interested and engaged, which is why I will never edit one Forgotten Stars book while drafting another.

6. Do first-round edits on a hard copy of the manuscript.

This is because I think it’s good to get the writing away from the computer and the same desk as always and everything. Whenever I finish a first draft, I print it out and put it in a binder; when it’s time to edit (at least three months later), out comes the red pen and I edit the thing. I do this because I think it’s good to get away from the screen once in a while, and there’s still nice tactile senses to working on paper. Now, I don’t know for how many more years this particular approach will be feasible, but we’ll see.

I can probably come up with more rules, but these are my big ones for when I have to maximize the time I have for the more-than-one-job that I have. It’s all about breaking the jobs down, so I can keep moving the ball forward, and it’s about keeping my writing-brain fresh and not tired from all the work I’m doing. Writing can be very tiring on the mental front, but there are hacks to get around that, and these are mine. I firmly believe that you can work on multiple projects at once (well, not exactly at once, but you take my meaning), so long as you plan things out and take a consistent approach.

What do you think, folks? Any other multi-taskers out there?

 

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It’s #AuthorLifeMonth!

There’s quite a wonderful thing going on in the Instagram world this month! It’s one of those daily photo challenges, but this one — hashtagged #AuthorLifeMonth — is geared specifically to writers, as a way of showing off a little of who they are and what they do. And of course I’m participating! I’ll feature my photos for that tag here, throughout the month.

Day 1: Your Books. Here are mine, on my own shelf! How cool is that.

Day 1, #AuthorLifeMonth: My books! If all goes according to plan, there will be four this time next year!

Day 2: Author Pic. I’ve used a different author pic on each book thus far; this is the one I used on the back of The Wisdomfold Path.

Day 2: My author photo. #AuthorLifeMonth (This is my second author photo, used most recently on THE WISDOMFOLD PATH. Thus far I've chickened out on using a pie-in-the-face photo as an author pic!)

Day 3: Your Last Five-Star Read. This one was a little trouble, because I don’t give five stars very often at all. (I’m talking Goodreads ratings here.) For me, five stars is for those few, rare books that are life-changers; books that would be on the list for books I hope I have with me when my ship crashes on that lonely island. I only have a few five-star entries on my Goodreads roster, and of those, none are ones that I’ve read recently. So I went with my most recent addition of a five-star book:

Day 3 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Last 5-star read. I reserve 5 stars for those books that become part of me. I read this many years ago, but I return to it often. Richard Halliburton was an adventurer and writer from the first decades of the 20th century, and h

That is a wonderful book! It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon of reading.

Day Four: Your WIP. Heh! I have two WIPs right now, one that I’m editing (Forgotten Stars III), and one I’m drafting (Lighthouse Boy). One’s a physical copy, and the other exists as a Scrivener project.

Day 4 of #AuthorLifeMonth: My WIPs. Top is the manuscript to FORGOTTEN STARS III, which I'm editing. Bottom is the Scrivener corkboard view of THE ADVENTURES OF LIGHTHOUSE BOY (not the actual title), which I am still drafting (and likely will be for years

More of these to come throughout the month!

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Updates and a Quick Stroll Around the Writing Neighborhood!

Hey all! I hope that 2016 is starting to settle into some good of good groove for you all, now that the bustle of the Holiday season is over. I’m always bummed out, a little, when the Holidays end; for all the hectic activity and commercialism, the Holidays always do seem to me like a time when we all try to make the world feel (and look) a bit better. Plus, this year my family had a truly wonderful Holiday season, starting with a trip to New York City at Thanksgiving and culminating in a Christmas with my entire family (it’s a small family, but my sister lives in Colorado and doesn’t get out here more than a few times a year, so that’s that).

The Holiday season was not particularly helpful to me on the writing front, however, and I suspect that many writers find themselves in the same boat. It’s hard enough to carve out writing time during the standard work-and-life routine of, say, March or September; throw in the Holidays, and yeesh! One has to become some kind of beast akin to a wounded, rabid, female grizzly bear whose young are being threatened in order to protect the writing time.

(And this year, it didn’t help that an 800-pound gorilla going by the name of The Force Awakens showed up.)

So, I’m now back in some kind of writing groove. What’s happening?

Well, I’m working on two projects at once. This may prove to be…unwise, but we’ll see.

First up is that I’m still plugging away on The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy. This book has stalled a few times when I put it aside in order to delve into serious editing work on other books (mainly the Forgotten Stars books), but I don’t want that to happen again, so I’ve dropped my quota down to 500 words a day on it, with the caveat that I have to get those 500 words before I do anything else.

Second up are the revisions to The Song of Forgotten Stars III. This has been tough going thus far, because the first few chapters are an absolute mess that I’ve been working to untangle.

I wrote Stardancer entirely from Princess Tariana’s point of view. In The Wisdomfold Path, I added Princess Margeth’s POV. Now, in this one, we add the third important viewpoint character: Lieutenant Rasharri. Problem was, I did a lot of POV-hopping in the first few chapters, as opposed to just doing what George RR Martin does with his Song of Ice and Fire novels, giving each chapter a single viewpoint. So that’s what I’m doing, but I have to rework those messy first chapters. I suspect that the revisions will go much more smoothly one I’m past the first few chapters.

(And here’s a tidbit: It occurred to me, halfway through drafting Book III, that in this series, every single viewpoint character will be female. I don’t know that this means anything, but I found it an interesting angle.)

So, that’s where we are right now! What are other writers up to? Let’s take a quick stroll around the Writing World!

Nicole Crucial on Following Your Gut in a First Draft. Her post is a response to this post of mine, and she has some interesting thoughts!

Brianna Da Silva has a list: 10 Traits of an Epic Villain. Villains are hard to get right, and Brianna has some great thoughts. For me, it’s important to remind myself that there is an alt-universe version of all of my stories in which the villain is the protagonist. Except for the most mustache-twirling of villains, they think of themselves as heroes of their own story, and I like it best when the villain is — just a little, just a teensy-weensy bit — actually right about things, even if their actions are awful. Good post here!

Joe Hill dismantles the cliche of the “crazy artist”. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s knockdown of the idea that writers and artists need to be substance abusers: “We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.” It’s apt that Hill’s piece would remind me of this, as King is Hill’s father. (I didn’t even know this until recently.)

Katherine Dell had some struggles with getting back into her routine. I can relate to this. Sometimes, after the weeks-long spectacle that is the Holidays, I find myself having trouble even remembering what the “routine” is.

Ilana Teitelbaum on self-promotion. I have improved my skills of self-promotion, going from awful to pretty bad. I’m hoping to reach Meh by the time Forgotten Stars III comes out.

Finally, Brett Michael Orr’s novel The Bureau of Time is now available! I haven’t read it yet, but it’s safely ensconced on my mobile devices and on my TBR List for this year. Orr’s one of the good guys, and I can’t wait to see what he’s come up with. Apparently it’s a YA science fiction/time travel adventure, and we can always use more of those!

See you next time, folks!

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My 2016 Goals!!!

If you’re wondering how 2015 went for me, I have a rundown over on Byzantium’s Shores. By way of writing specifically, I had a good year as well: I released The Wisdomfold Path, I finished the first draft of Forgotten Stars III, I got through a round of edits for GhostCop, and I rebooted (literally) The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (not actual titles). And yet I still feel like I didn’t get enough done…but I suppose that’s par for the course.

As for 2016 writing and other goals, I tweeted a long string of such stuff the other day, and I embed them all below. Here’s what I hope things look like in 2016! Some of these are reading and writing-related, but toward the bottom are the more general “life goals”.

Well?

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When the Muse Taunts Me

(The following is a repost of something I originally posted to Byzantium’s Shores a few years ago. It remains a relatively accurate portrayal of my relationship with The Muse.)

The Muse is a fairly capricious being.

When we think of The Muse — that otherworldly being who is the source of all things poetic — we generally think of a being or beings who look like this:

But after however-many-years of wandering in the wilderness, chasing after the dreams and visions offered by The Muse in the hopes that my efforts at making use of one of those tiny scraps of an idea might, in my hands, become something worth reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that The Muse does not look like that at all.

First of all, The Muse is a guy. Why is this? I don’t know; I didn’t set it up. But he’s a guy. But he’s not a classical Greek God of a guy. No, he’s a dumpy fellow. Picture the love child of Danny DeVito and Tommy Chong, at the age of fifty-five. That’s The Muse. He’s cranky, probably from being too short, and lackadaisical, probably from smoking a lot of weed.

The Muse ain’t much for hygeine, it turns out. Or presentation. He just doesn’t care how he looks, because he knows that all the power is his. He knows that he’s got the goods, and that we want ’em. And he knows that he doesn’t have to give up the goods at all, and that when he does, he only has to do it on his timeframe. So when he shows up, he’s not all tall and muscular, wearing a perfect toga and a laurel branch on his brow.

No, The Muse shows up in a dirty tank-top that might have been white once-upon-a-time, but it was likely stained in the package. It’s just slightly too tight on his pot-bellied frame, as if it’s one half-size too small. Nevertheless, he insists on tucking it in, so that it comes untucked in the course of his day. So when he shows up, he’s got one side tucked in and the other side hanging there so you can see flashes of his gut.

His pants are also filthy. They’re brown slacks, shapeless and dirty. There’s a ketchup stain on his thigh, but he doesn’t care. His shoes are some strange blend of black, brown, tan, and gray, all in one color that has never had a word attached to it, in any language.

The Muse is cranky and foul-mouthed. He has no manners to speak of; he smokes and drinks and is insanely rude. When he talks, it’s with a thick accent, and almost never the same accent two days in a row. But that doesn’t matter, because he almost never sticks around long enough to have a conversation. He doesn’t even talk to you when he drops by to give away ideas.

In fact, he doesn’t even give ideas away. See, he’s got so many of them that he doesn’t need ’em. In fact, he doesn’t have ‘so many’ ideas; he has all the ideas, every single idea anyone ever had or is ever gonna have. And he just drives around with them, in his 1973 Dodge Dart. The whole car is painted metallic green, except for the right fender, which has a big old dent in it and is still the color of primer. The passenger door has a big orange ‘7’ on it, but not the driver’s door. In this vehicle The Muse speeds around town, never once obeying a speed limit (unless he goes on the Thruway, in which case he gets in the left lane and goes 45).

Once in a while The Muse drives by your house. And when he does, he might slow down for you, or he might not. If he slows down, he won’t stop to talk. He won’t even look at you. He’ll just throw a wad of garbage out the passenger side window, to land on your feet. It’ll likely be a paper bag from McDonald’s. It’ll be a few days old, so it’ll be stinky and the grease will have soaked through the paper a bit and there will be smeared ketchup on it. But that doesn’t matter, because you have to open that bag up, see. You have to dig through it, past the wax paper cup that’s still sticky with Coke syrup and the French fry thing with ketchup on it. You have to do this because you’re after the Big Mac wrapper. There’s still cheese and ketchup and Special Sauce on it, but you can wash your hands later. Because on the inside of that wrapper? That’s where he wrote your Idea.

And the Idea won’t always be relevant to anything you’re working on. Sometimes it’ll be the key to solving a particularly sticky point in the tale you’re telling right then, a point where you’re stuck. Maybe you read it and realize that the key to a happy ending is having Captain Renault round up the usual suspects. Or maybe the Idea is a notion for a new tale, entirely — “Hey, what if there’s a great white shark who realizes that there’s good eatin’ in the waters off a New England resort island?”. Or maybe the Idea is something else.

The Muse visited me this morning. Drove by and chucked something out the window. It wasn’t a McDonald’s trash collection this time; instead it was a bag of non-returnable bottles. Took me a while to dig through it and find the Idea, but there it was. I won’t say what it is, but it turns out to be the essential key to the story, the thing that will make it work. This morning, The Muse gave me the way to win the ballgame.

But not on the novel I’m writing now.

No, today The Muse drove by and chucked me the key to the plot of The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title), the project which I shelved a while back so I could let the plot simmer in my head a time longer. Now that I’m trucking away on Princesses In Space!!! II: Ocarina of Time (not the actual title), I’ve had the other tale fall into place. And I won’t get to that one again, most likely, until 2014 at the earliest.

I stood there, sticky bag and useless bottles in hand, reading what The Muse had scrawled on the back of a cash register tape. “Oh, come on!” I shouted. “What the hell good is this gonna do me right now?”

In reply, The Muse only laughed. He’s got a nasty laugh, that guy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.

(image above via)

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THE WISDOMFOLD PATH is a GO, people!!!!!

We’re LIVE, folks! The Song of Forgotten Stars, book II: THE WISDOMFOLD PATH is now available for purchase! It’s in paperback first, and the ebook formats will come in two weeks.

I’m planning to come up with a mechanism for ordering signed copies from me directly; I’ll likely have this ready to go in December. But for now…IT’S A BOOK, folks!!!

 

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Happy Pi Day!

(crossposted from Byzantium’s Shores)

Yes, today is Pi Day! I don’t usually do much to observe Pi Day, but this year’s is a special edition, since this is the only year in this century when the digits will line up so perfectly.

And how would a goof like me mark the occasion? Well, it would start with this:

And end like this:


Long live Pi, and pie!

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