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.


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.

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


The Yoga of Experience – I Just Lost My Good Excuse

I often come up with snippets of ideas for stories. I’m not exactly sure how to categorize these stories though. I guess they are children’s stories? I mean, the protagonists are often mice or cats or other small furry creatures (with the occasional bird or turtle thrown in the mix). The plots are fairly straightforward. So maybe the best way to describe them might be “stories for children of all ages.” Yes, that sounds about right.

Usually, these stories write themselves. I start out with a little bit of an idea, and I sit down and write. And the story writes itself. When this happens, I know I’m onto something – that the story comes from somewhere else besides my brain. They are mine, but it’s like I’ve “written” them somewhere else and it’s just a matter of tuning in and downloading them through my fingertips and into my computer.

When a story is jagged or somehow irking me as I write it, or if I feel frustrated, I know that its time hasn’t quite come yet. I back off, leave it alone and try again another day until it’s ready to show up. It’s a really satisfying process. Sometimes when I go back and read the finished product, I’m surprised. In a good way.

Many times after I’ve written a story, I think, oh now this needs some illustrations! Yes, wouldn’t this be so much cuter or more fun or whatever if there were some cute little sketches that accompanied this story!

A few times I’ve tried to illustrate my own story (in 2014 and 2015 I released Christmas books that were stories accompanied by little sketches I drew), but usually when I try to do something “artsy” I get really frustrated and everything comes out looking like a potato with a bad hairpiece. It doesn’t work. Maybe I’m too critical of my own art. But whatever. I CAN’T DO IT. Nor do I want to, because it’s not my thing.

But I so often wish I had illustrations to go with my supacute stories. So a few times I’ve asked friends who are amazing artists (because I know a lot of them!) if they would be interested in illustrating one of my stories, they are all very nice and usually say yes. Hooray! Except.

Except they are very busy people and don’t have time to work on a small project like mine.

I don’t blame them at all! I get it. I really do. But I am still sad because my stories go un-illustrated. They are naked little stories.

After a while, I started saying this to myself: “I can’t find an illustrator to make my stories come to life so why bother writing any?”

And so I stopped writing stories. No more tales (or tails?) of below average intelligence partridges. No more spinning yarns about birds who teach their friends to knit. No more nail-biters about worms who save fancy dinner parties from being overrun by ants.

Until now.

As I grow up, grow older, and grow wiser, it finally hit me today. Screw the illustrations!

If I wait till everything has a drawing to go with it, I’ll be waiting a long time. I would rather share these stories without illustrations than to have them just sit as a bunch of 0s and 1s on Google Drive. I would like you to read them. And hopefully enjoy them.

You’d think I would have realized this before today. But I am a slow learner. A late bloomer. A conformist, apparently. OH GOD NO! NOT THAT!

Well, better late than never. It’s time to get them out into the world.

So I’ve started going back through some things that I’ve written. Some are finished, some are not. But I’m getting back to them – and there are more coming. About a cat with special sleuthing powers who travels all over the world flying his own plane. And another cat who lives on a farm on the Russian Steppes. And a bird who can’t decide what book to read next.

You’ll be able to draw your own illustrations to go with them.

This is an illustration by my amazing uncle, Jan Zaremba, which he did for my story “The Thunderstorm.” We published it in 2014 and it’s available here.



For the last several months, I’ve sat at my desk here in my home office / studio. I can look out a big window at three large trees, and the neighbor’s back yard. When I started sitting here, in February, the trees were bare. Now there is a dense canopy of green. And I’ve been utterly amazed at the variety of birds I’ve seen.
The tree in our back yard is a mulberry tree. Did you know there are a lot of birds that like mulberries? (Also squirrels seem to love them).
In the last few weeks I have seen so many different birds in our yard! The sparrows are raising a whole new generation outside the kitchen window. There are at least two Cardinal families – one on either side of the house. Brown Thrashers come to visit. Robins and Starlings too. Red Breasted Grosbeaks have made an appearance. The other day I saw a whole group of Cedar Waxwings in the mulberry tree – those guys are beautiful! And today we’ve had multiple bluebird sightings – a sign of good cheer and prosperity…

As I sat here the other day watching Cedar Waxwings eat mulberries, noticing how pretty they were, I realized that had I still been working at my last job, I never would have gotten to see these birds. And when I am old, or when I am dying, looking back, which would give me more pleasure – having watched a beautiful bird in a beautiful green tree, or filling out another form for my boss?

It all comes down to the choices we make. It comes down to being mindful of where we are in each moment. It comes down to making sure each choice we make, in each moment, is in line with how we really want to live our lives.
It’s so easy to distract oneself from the present moment, and our society seems built on making this as easy as possible. To go against it requires vigilance, a rejection of many things we’re surrounded with, and the ability to make different choices that may not be as easy.
Now is the time to slow down, rededicate myself to being more mindful, and make good choices. So, here we go.

I wish I had some bird photos to post here, but I can never get anything good with an iPhone through several panes of glass. I’ll keep trying…


TGI- Wait, What Day Is It Again?

TGIF! Happy Friday to you.
Yesterday I thought it was Friday. On Wednesday, I thought it was Monday. But I am pretty sure that today is Friday. Clearly this Freelance thing is messing with my ability to tell where I am in the work week. When I worked at the bank, I always knew what day it was. My alarm would go off, and immediately by brain would try to assess where I was in the whole Having To Go To Work thing. Oh damn. It’s only Wednesday. Son of a bitch. Nowadays – not so much.
This week, I spent a lot of time slowing down and listening. I’m trying to listen to my own intuition more, but I’m also trying to take time to listen to other people’s wisdom and experience. Here are a few things I’ve found.

Seth Godin’s Udemy Course
Seth Godin is a Marketing Guru. A lot of what he says is common sense – but sometimes it’s so common that you’ve forgotten it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read one of his daily emails and said to myself, “yes, that makes sense, I knew that! But I forgot!”
He’s recently come up with an eCourse for freelancers, you can see it here.
Seth encourages us to be unique, do good work, treat people fairly, and not compromise. I’m not even halfway done with the course yet, for a simple reason: if you are going to learn how to be unique and do your best work as a freelancer, and get good customers, you have to be clear about who you are and what you are offering. I had to stop and make sure I knew the answers to this before I went any further. I’ve come to some conclusions, and I’ll hopefully blog more about those soon. I’ll get back to the course soon…

Jeff Goins, Writer
Jeff has several books out, about finding your calling, being a writer, and doing good work. I first ran across his name several months ago, when Amazon suggested a $.99 eBook to me: “You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).” Well how could I pass that up? Of course I downloaded it. But never read it. I would remember it from time to time and think, oh right, I need to go look at that book… tomorrow…
Well yesterday a friend sent me a link to a page on his blog which was interesting and inspiring for several reasons – first off, he just jumped in and got started; and second, it involved coffee! It inspired me. I started reading my $.99 eBook. (You can get the book from Amazon, here).

Liftoff with Devon White
I honestly don’t know much about Devon, I found out about him through some other emails I receive. There are two web sites, Go Grattitude, and Blooming Humans, that are linked somehow, but honestly I’m not sure how. They send emails regarding – you guessed it – living a life of gratitude, and living a more purpose-driven life. Some of it is a little “out there,” even for me, but the message is always positive and you can’t have too much of that! So when an email came through offering a free 9-day series of videos presented by Devon, on “lifestyle design and dream realization,” I had to try it. I mean, how apropos everything. Today was Day 2. Interesting so far – we’ll see where it goes…

All of these things are interesting finds, and valuable information for someone who wants to make changes and live a more positive, healthy life. I also know that one can read about these things ALL DAY LONG but what it really comes down to is putting all of it (or at least even just parts of it) into practice. In my case, I at least have to read the damn stuff first.
I have a propensity to collect these kinds of materials, and then forget about them. Well, perhaps right now is the time to start changing that. Small steps, you know. I’ll keep reading and listening and gathering info, and we’ll see where it goes.
In Jeff Goins’ “You Are a Writer” book, one of the first things he says is stop going through the motions, stop trying to figure out who your audience is, stop trying to please other people with your writing. JUST WRITE. Well… duh. But I had forgotten.
So, I’m writing this blog post. I’m an excellent procrastinator, and actually I’m putting off another writing project by writing this post – but I think it’s technically OK since IT’S ALL WRITING.
I finally have another idea for a small, limited-edition hand-made book. I’m working on a story about a worm who attends a fancy dinner party. I hope you’ll like it – but ultimately I’m writing it because I feel like it so there.
I’d better get back to it.

But first: some squirrels at work.