The Muse on Vacation

this is a photo of the oregon coast. it is not a photo of my novel.

I am currently on vacation. That’s right, this blog post is comin’ atcha straight from the SB – more popularly known as Sunset Beach, California.

I am having a great time on vacation. And when I get back, I’ll write up another blog post that will tell you all about it. It will undoubtedly be a fantastically interesting rundown on all the coffee I have consumed, and all the old friends I’ve caught up with. This post, however, is a quick shoutout to my Muse, whom I was smart enough to bring on vacation with me. It has come in very handy, since part of my objective for this trip was to work on a novel.

If you plan on writing a novel, might I suggest you  have your muse handy, too.

The first leg of my trip took me to Portland, Oregon, where I was in full-on tourist mode, so I didn’t have time to do any writing other than short journal entries on my phone. From Portland, I flew to Los Angeles, where I hung out with my dad for a few days. That was full-on family mode. It was good to see my Dad, his wife, and my step-sister Tanya and her insanely energetic toddler (she tried to tell me “he’s usually not like this” but we all know that toddlers are ALWAYS like that and she wasn’t fooling anyone). So I didn’t have time to do any writing there, either. And after attending a gentle yoga class with my Dad at the Y (during which I almost fell asleep three times – I think it was a little too gentle for me), I rolled on out of there in my free-to-me 2000 Ford Focus station wagon pimp-mobile and headed for the beach. Where I have done hardly anything except write.

I think the Muse likes the beach a lot. After three days of eating, sleeping, and more eating, watching “Bosch” on Amazon Video, and a little writing, I am now almost 9,000 words into this novel thing. My goal for the project is 70,000 words, which I probably won’t finish by next Tuesday – but I will have gotten a pretty good start on it by the time I leave this little slice of heaven and head back to my Dad’s (which is not a little slice of heaven but more like a little slice of vegan black-bean chocolate coffee cake) and then back to Tulsa (which is a slice of WTF am I doing here).

They say you are either a “planner” or a “pantser” when it comes to novel writing. A “planner” plans the whole damn thing out before starting – character sketches, chapter outline, research notes, marketing plan, Oscar speech for best screenplay, etc). While a “pantser” flies by the seat of their pants and makes everything up as they go along. I guess I’m somewhere in between because I have a half-assed plot outline and some almost-done character sketches. And one photo of Titus Welliver. Then I was like, “this planning stuff is BORING” and I just started writing.

I wonder how people actually get entire novels written. I wonder how they get agents. I also wonder how they can have faith that when they are done writing their novel, when they are done spending ALL THAT TIME creating their masterpiece, they don’t just end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a bestseller.

Some people do in fact end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a novel. I have read a few of those. But many people end up with a coherent, clever, emotionally-inspiring, thought-provoking story. Me? I am not so sure yet. My novel might be word poop.

But if I work really hard, and finish this thing, and it ends up with what seems to me to be a coherent plot, compelling characters and good dialogue… well, it will be word poop that I can be proud of. It will be my creation, my labor of love. It will be my very own story.

We all have a story to tell. Isn’t that great? We can tell it exactly how we want to, every time. And we can give it whatever happy, romantic, schlocky, feel-good, closure-inducing,  Emmy-award winning, Hallmark Channel ending we want. And that is the important part – the realization that we create our own story, and then the realization of that story.

A book deal would be pretty freakin’ great though.

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Meeting the Muse

The Muses were the nine Greek goddesses who presided over the arts (including music) and literature. A shrine to the Muses was called in Latin a museum. An artist or poet about to begin work would call on his particular Muse to inspire him, and a poem itself might begin with such a call; thus, Homer’s Odyssey begins, “Sing to me of the man, Muse” (that is, of Odysseus). Today a muse may be one’s special creative spirit, but some artists and writers have also chosen living human beings to serve as their muses.
-From www.merriam-webster.com

A muse. Different from amuse, but that’s just mincing words.

I believe that everyone has a muse at least once in their lives, that not just “creative people” have a muse to inspire them. Just like I don’t buy it when someone says to me “Oh, I’m not creative.” Everyone is creative. So everyone has a muse.

I would be a much different person today if I hadn’t found mine. My thinking would be different. My writing would be different. My personality would definitely be different.

Whether it’s in spirit form, flesh and bone, or existing in some as-of-yet undiscovered dimension or parallel universe, muses are real, and a necessary part of the human experience.

The muse is the entity to which our creation is dedicated. The person or energy blob or ray of light that inspires us to externalize what’s inside. They give us courage, strength and guidance. They are our audience.

We love our muse, whatever form they are in. We adore them, we know them, understand them, and revere them because they adore us, know us, understand us, and revere us. Whether they exist in human form or not, the lines between fantasy and reality get blurred, and this is the one of the few times when this type of behavior is ok.

If your muse is a person, however, and you’ve attributed them with traits or skills or superpowers they may not actually possess, and you  approach them in real life as if they do possess these wondrous abilities, trouble could ensue. Just saying.

You can give your muse whatever endearing personality quirks you want. You can imagine your muse having the perfect body, the perfect skull housing the most perfect brain that understands you perfectly. All of this is OK – whatever gets you through the long dark night of the creative soul. But if you call up your muse and assume they actually do know your every thought, and actually do love every single ridiculous word that comes out of your mouth, even more trouble could ensue.

Having a muse is a great way to focus creative energy. It is a great way to love something or someone, a great way to express emotion, and it is always a perfect receiver of your creative genius. I write to my muse all the time. I feel the energy of my muse, I let it wash over me, and as the waves recede, small pearls are left on the shore. I walk along the shore and pick up these pearls, and I collect them. And when I have enough, I string them together and create something bigger and more beautiful than they could have been by themselves.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Making life beautiful? It’s nice to have help.

Mude Music

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Fiction: Three Lovers

Three Lovers

I have had many lovers throughout my life. At times, I was too self-absorbed to understand them well, and the ending of these affairs left me feeling bad. Other times, my lovers did not understand me, resulting in the same things: sadness, bitterness, anger, regret. I am happy to say, this no longer happens. Now I have it figured out.
Now I have three lovers.

My first lover experiences the world through his sense of touch. If he can’t touch it, it doesn’t exist. What exists is only what he takes in through his hands. He takes things apart to build them back up again. With little use for things like feelings, and little patience for emotions, everything comes down to how something feels when he touches it.
When we lay together, he runs his hand along the length of my body, feeling the curves, slowing down to notice the change from bone to muscle under the surface of my skin. He holds me, feeling the warmth of my body alongside his, the angle of my jaw, the lines of my shoulders. He says nothing. I feel his body on mine, I revel in the heat and the sensation of his hands moving across my bare skin. It is a sensual world, we are sensual beings.

My second lover lives in a world of words and sound. His prose flows like poetry, set to music that plays in time with the beating of his heart. He makes sense of what he experiences by speaking it, singing it, playing it. What he feels, he translates into vibration, thought, words, notes. He reads voraciously, ravenously, devouring thoughts and stories, with each new word the universe expands.
In the silent darkness of a moonless night, he comes to my bed, his breath warm in my ear, speaking in low tones of love and desire. He wants to know what I’m feeling, he wants to know what’s in my head and my heart. He lays by my side, talking slowly and quietly, the curls falling from his forehead tickle my neck. His melody is sweet, with each note I am softened. He has sung his way into my heart.

My third lover sees life as story. He sees stories everywhere he looks. He tells me, with a combination of passion and wistfulness in his voice, that stories find him, wanting to be told. He sees meaning in actions, as well as the pauses in between them. The unspoken sometimes says more than what is said. Every story in the world can be told this way, he tells me softly.
He takes me on a trip, to a house overlooking the grey stormy sea, and lays me down on a feather bed, his body behind me, holding me up, protecting me. We gaze out the window at the world he has created. He says he wants me to see the story he has written, can I see it just there, on the horizon? He asks. Yes, I can see it, beyond the rocks and breaking waves, that sunny patch of blue. I lean back and let the plot unfold.

Original fiction copyright 2017, Andrea C. Neil

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book.

So I wrote a book.
It’s a short book… I suppose it’s a children’s book but I don’t really think of it as one.
It’s a picture book. For all ages.
I wrote it rather quickly, and only after some time had gone by, did I realize what it was actually about. Does that ever happen to you? I’ll write something and I won’t know where it comes from until after I’m done and I go back and read it and then it makes sense…
After I realized what it was, I asked my Uncle Jan to illustrate it. I was afraid he’d say no, but maybe he realized what the book was too, and thankfully, he agreed to add illustrations to my text.
And here we are, a year later, and the book is done.

The book is for my Mom, who passed away March 10, 2011 after 13 weeks of illness. I can’t explain here what that was like, but I can say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. This is a book about that experience.
My Uncle Jan is a wonderful artist, and it’s so generous of him to have created the beautiful illustrations that are in this book. I know that he did it for my mom. But I also know that it was for me, too. So thank you, Uncle.

The finished product is a gift. It’s a gift for my Mom, it’s a gift for me and my family. I am so very proud of it. To me, it feels like closure, it feels right.
I hope that you’ll take a minute and go look at it. And being the good marketer that I am, of course I’ll point out that if you like it, you can get your own copy… right here.

It’s a beautiful book. I know my Mom would love it.

the thunderstorm
the thunderstorm

 

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