Breaking Dumb

A quick thought on inspiration…

stop and think pngNext time your muse deserts you and you’re banging your head against the keyboard and praying for ideas, try this: what was the worst too-dumb-to-live decision you ever made? Seriously. What decision  made you wonder, during or later, what was I thinking??  If you don’t want to face your own demons or you never made any bad decisions, ask your friends. I guarantee you’ll hear the most hilarious, tragic, and bizarre tales of human misbehavior ever.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Use the unlimited resources of your own life or the lives of others to populate your stories and novels with chaos and pathos, humor and heartbreak. Don’t forget to change the names of the crazed people involved. Also, remember, since you are the boss here, you can change the outcome, making bad decisions have great results.

Either way, it’ll be fun or frightening.

It’ll leave you thinking, holy s**t, that was a close one!

What was the dumbest thing you ever did and lived to tell about?

Photo from Foter

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Renegade Muse

Suddenly, after months of silence, my surly muse, Juan Reyes, deceased inter-galactic combat photographer from my first novel, dropped in unexpectedly.

kindle“OK, you’re going to have to knock this s**t off, girl. Back away from the Kindle and plant your butt in chair,” he says.

I see him standing behind me in the reflection of my tablet screen.  Juan’s bloodstained fatigues and battered camera bag are gone. This evening he’s as handsome and whole as he was in chapter one of my languishing first novel. His black dreads touch the velvet lapels of the red brocade duster he wore at embassy receptions. Vain and beautiful, his dark eyes twinkle with adult mischief.

“Netflix is great, but come on. You’ve watched movie after movie, marathons of entire seasons of House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and Orange is the New Black. Why do I get the feeling you are hiding from me? Aren’t you ever going to write again?”  He crosses his arms across his chest, assuming that belligerent stance I came to love after I wrote him into existence.

“Well, I thought I’d collect information on the structure of daring plots,” I hedge, turning toward him.

He backs away, holding up his hand. “Remember. Don’t try to touch me. I’ll be forced to deconstruct.”

Then he grins, fishes in his pocket and produces a red and white cigarette pack. Slowly, he peels the gold strip from the cellophane wrap and tosses the crumpled plastic over his shoulder.

“I love this bad habit. Perfect for someone already dead.” He takes a leisurely  puff, gesturing to me. “Want one?”

“Not as much as I used to,” I admit.

“Good. Now, you must break a second dangerous habit. Procrastination. It frustrates you. Constructive screwing around fills you with doubt. Letting others entertain you allows you to obsess about the merits of the first chapter of Lies and Legends without completing a damned thing.” He sighs. ” I mean, really. How many old episodes of the X-Files can you watch?”

I frown at him. “I gave up waiting for you.”

“Oh, please,” he sighs and frowns at me. “This is not about us. I thought you understood most writing you do without  me, using only your iron will and relentless sense of humor.”

Juan’s sudden mood swing startles me and so I wait.

He paces back and forth, irritable and uncharacteristically nervous, his duster rippling behind him. “Do you think you’re the only one with problems?”

I haven’t seen him so distressed and sullen since I forced him into celibacy in chapter twenty-one.

“We muses, we are in great demand now.  We are so busy we are literally running up our own backsides.” Giant sigh. “There is simply not enough time in the infinite universe.” He gestures toward the open windows.  “Do you have any idea what’s going on out there?”

I shrug. “I try not to think about it.”

“There’s an emergency in this world. Muses have been called.” He glances at the TV chattering in the living room. “Do you ever watch the news?”

“Only if I’m forced at gunpoint.”

“Well,” he says, lighting another cigarette with a flame at the tip of his finger, “at this juncture in time our calling is much higher than handing out prize-winning ideas to artists. World leaders, generals, politicians, religious figures – they all need inspiration more than ever.”

I stare at him.

Juan shakes his head. “I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t true. We don’t try to influence one side or the other. Muses are always neutral. Our job is keeping the stream of human thought moving. Without us nothing ever changes.” He wanders toward the French doors, glancing out into the darkening sky.

I follow him, staying a safe distance. “So you aren’t necessarily a force for good?”

“Your species’ interpretation of the inspiration we send shapes everything for better or worse.” He leans against the door frame, his back to the stars edging over the horizon. “Some of us don’t care for  our new duties, I can tell you that. Most of our assignments are too morally ambiguous.  It’s a tremendous burden.  Personally, I yearn for the good old days when all I had to do was whisper in the ear of some distressed writer.”

He looks at me, a conspiratorial glint in his eyes.  “Some of us are thinking about making a change.”

“A creative revolution, a literary first strike, artistic anarchy?” I ask.orion

As Juan fades in front of me, I  see  Orion rising  through his wavering form.

“Perhaps. You’ll just have to pay attention. Get rid of that damned device, stop checking your email, quit surfing. Start writing. Changes are coming. ” He winks. “You  don’t want to miss them, baby.” He blows me a kiss. “Oh, and thanks for listening.”

“I’ll send you my bill,” I whisper to the darkness.

What changes are coming for your writing?

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Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com / Foter / CC BY

 

Writing under the Super Moon

Finally, I thought of something. My next novel? I hope so.super-moon-2012-mount-hamilton-california_l At this point, I’ll take any idea I can get.

My surly muse touched me briefly and ran like hell. In the last two days, I’ve named my two main players and character sketched them using Scrivener. No mean accomplishment for an Insecure Writer and Scrivener fumbler.

The happiest person in this scenario is my patient husband who listens to my endless rants and wails about the wax and wane of creativity. Our literary strength ebbs and flows, whether we like it or not. I’m coming to grips with that now – sort of.

fly-me-to-the-supermoon-500th-photo_lSo, in the light of the Super Moon, I tentatively begin the insane dance of writing a novel again. I’ve posted my What I Learned Writing my First Novel paragraph near the monitor,  and I’m armed with the Mistakes I Won’t Make Again list.

What’s on your second novel list?

photos from http://foter.com/

OUTLOOK from H**l

Greetings, everyone.

I’ve finally done it. I’m officially an Insecure Writer.

Two months ago I finished my first novel, a science-fiction romance. I wrote my query letter and synopsis, and I  described my book in thirty words. The worst is over, I thought.

But, I’ve hit the wall. Submitting the queries.  Navigating the arcane submission rituals (different for every agent) is a test of my patience, not to mention my self-esteem.just-a-lonely-heart_l Have I been under a rock for the last two years writing the novel, completing HTRYN, and everything else? Apparently.

OUTLOOK, the email of choice for so many agents, is kicking my rear. I can’t get it to work from my PC. It occasionally sends the query letter packet  but, more often, it will not send. I pressed the right button, I swear! My poor query ends up in the outbox from which it will not budge. My attachment (yes, some agents take them) is small – just a plain word doc.

So, any one out there have this problem? How did you solve it? Does OUTLOOK work better on a Mac? Help!

(Oh, on the brighter side, my surly muse has given me an idea for a second novel. I’m taking a few weeks to ponder the plot, do character sketches, and see if I still like it by July:))

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Fickle Muse Man

Check out A Scenic Routewhere Kirsten created a wonderful encounter with her muse and characters, a virtual Q and A with the illusive spirits that haunt all artists. I was so inspired by this post I wanted to get to know my own muse better. It turns out, in spite of his surly behavior and arrogant demeanor, he does have a heart.

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My fingers froze on the keys, so I scrambled for a pen. The ink was dry, so I snatched a pencil. The lead snapped, so I sat still, gazing at the paper, experiencing a blazing total eclipse of creativity.

Four dry months had passed and I resisted the impulse – the desperate need – to contact my muse. Everyone knows mere humans cannot summon a muse, but I called him all the same. I fantasized about him at work, and I dreamed of him at night. But, like a lover who won’t return your text, he was silent. I tried the usual ritual muse-luring activities: deleting the remaining clutter of my novel, The Spear, from the virtual desktop and swiping the real desktop with a Pledge drenched paper towel. Obsessive cleaning gave way to desolation. I was helpless in the grip of a four-alarm literary apocalypse.

Finally, he appeared.specter-2

Juan Reyes, intergalactic combat videographer, stood by the french doors opening to our deck. The warmth of the day faded with the lowering sun, and I squinted to see his face in the expanding dusk. Orange clouds fading into purple sky framed his rugged profile. How out of place he looked in such a beautiful setting. Juan’s most familiar haunts were streets crowded with ragged soldiers and refugees, sordid back alley bars, or noisy parties filled with greedy politicians.

Of course, he saw me lurking nearby. After you die a violent death, are you senses heightened? Maybe.

During his last scene in The Spear, Juan died instantly under the backwash of a flamethrower. His beautiful features were lost in fire as his clothes smoked and withered from his body.

Following the lightBut  here, with me, he was still as handsome as an Aztec-priest, his dreadlocks swirling around his shoulders as he turned to me. His fatigue pants, boots, and tunic were intact except for a few scorch marks and a single bullet hole over his left chest pocket. His face was shadowed, but I could see the flash of a smile as he fished a cigarette from the side pouch of his camera bag and lit it with a flame dancing on the end of his fingertip. I couldn’t smell the smoke, but I remembered the fragrance.

Horrified, I blurted, “Juan! You’re smoking!”

He laughed – a cozy masculine chuckle. “I’m dead. It’s the perfect time to start a bad habit!” He inhaled, sighing with pleasure. “I should’ve enjoyed these when I was alive to taste them.”

Leaning in the doorway, he watched me. Hesitantly, I stepped toward him and he held up his hand, palm out. “You can only talk to me. I’m no longer part of the corporeal world, so if you try to touch me, I’ll disappear.”

I whispered, “I’m so pissed at you, Juan.”

You’re pissed? You killed me, remember?”

“Where in hell have you been, Juan? Dammit, I made you my muse!”

“Yes, I know,” he said. “My death was central to the plot, but I hope you understand as a murdered character technically I owe you nothing.” He was preening like a cat, teasing me, just out of reach. “I know I had to die, but I still don’t like it,” Juan continued. For the first time, emotion crept into his voice.  “Your  plot made sense, of course. I’d been striving for thirty years to duplicate my original moment of glory so just when I made the perfect shot – boom! Lights out.”

a-wwii-combat-photographerHe shrugged and gestured toward me with his cigarette. “What was it you said about me in your Flat Line blog?”

“‘He was just too hot to live,’” I muttered. “You were a goner from the first page. But, you were so useful, such a wonderful foil for naïve Varla and the other women who loved you.” I knew without looking he was smiling again, white teeth brightening his copper skin. Vain even in death.

My muse beamed. “Yes, they did love me. In spite of all my misfortunes, I never lost my touch.”

In spite of his warning, I stepped closer. “Juan, what would you change in the novel, aside from your death?”

He thought for a moment and I closed my eyes, waiting in the cool night breeze for his answer.

“Just a few things. Jef and Varla should become lovers before the second chapter. This was a romance novel, remember? It’s supposed to be fun – not like real life, with all the tedious emotional bargaining. Also, I would like Ishana sent with me in a blaze of glory. I miss her.” He sounded lonely, so I turned away. Let him have his pride and privacy.

The sun was long gone, and faint stars rotated above the horizon. I couldn’t see him now, but I knew he was close by.

“I want you to come back, Juan. My mind is blank; I’m paralyzed.”

Sudden irritation tinged his voice.  “Look, you’re not the only needy writer in limbo. You’ve turned me into a damned literary Santa Clause, running my ass all over the world, bestowing blessed gifts of inspiration on you burn outs.”

“You really are pissed, aren’t you?”

He shrugged and flicked the cigarette onto the deck. Its tiny coal winked out on the trex.

bokeh-kiss_l“What can I do to appease you – to make you love me again?” I asked.

“Give me one more night with Ishana!”

“That’s all it would take?” I grinned. “I could write that. For you.”

A moment passed before he said, “You wrote a good first novel, kid, and I’m proud of you. But, there are rules. Even if I wanted to, I can’t show up just because you whistle.”

I sighed. “What if I beg, plead, and grovel? I will, you know.”

“Hell, don’t do that. I hate women who beg.” He lit another cigarette. “Listen, you know how this works. I don’t appear until you are ready. You’re just too tired now, but it won’t always be this way. You have my permission to play with words, enjoy sending out queries and swat at rejections like some word-wielding King Kong. Whatever you do, do not stop writing. Promise me.”

In a wink of starlight, he was gone. The faintest whiff of cigarette smoke tingled my nose.

“I promise,” I whispered. No matter what, I knew he would always have my back.

What does your muse want from you?

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Photo credit: Defence Images / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Zenith

Reaching the zenith of this challenge has been a great experience! Thanks to all who read my posts!

zenith-2_lI’ve learned so much about the wide, wide blog universe. It amazed me with its vast content, its unique variety, and its articulate members. It is the combined intelligence of our species, no doubt about it.

So, now what? I started this challenge wondering if I was going to continue writing. I had finished my novel, and I was sending out query letters but, during all the uproar, my faithless muse wandered away. Good news, though.  I’m still writing. And, while that bad muse of mine remains illusive, I have seen him peeking out at me during the last twenty-six posts.

Thanks for the inspiration, everyone! Will I see you next April 1st? stars-th

Photo credit: aldoaldoz / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

COSMIC AHA!

 

I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?