Held Hostage by my Muse

I read other authors’ blogs. Because, you know, I like to know how you think. I don’t like to believe I’m the only strange person in ‘scribe’ land. I have enough angst.

But, I’m beginning to think maybe I am a little stranger than most.

See, for the last several months I’ve been writing hard. Way more intense than normal. Before December, I sat myself down daily and didn’t let me up until I’d written at least 2500 words. Semi-decent words. Strung together to make a coherent sense in whichever story I’m writing. Once I hit that magic number, I’d quit writing, check mail, do research, housework (though I’ll find any excuse to take me away from that!), or cook for those days when I’m too tired to cook or busy with something else.

Works for me.

Well, in December, something changed. May have been because I got involved in that week of a story a day for Coffin Hop and reading every other post almost daily, or the whole month of SciFiNovember, me writing one item a week, checking and trying to comment on everyone else’s.

Must have galvanized me.

December, my Muse nudged me, even after my 2500 words. Scenes drew themselves in my brain, insisting I just jot a little more down.

Sometimes I sat and wrote that little bit. But then, the next day, my muse would urge me to stay longer. Almost as if she loved our sessions too much to let me go.

December is too busy a month to just write. I had company coming, feasts to prepare, goodies to bake, gifts to sew and shopping to finish. That’s not counting the number of hours my driveway took all of us to shovel.

When my guests left, I rested and slept two whole days. Cleared my brain. Took stock of my pantry, set guidelines for everything I wanted to accomplish this year. Before I looked at my stories.

That’s when she grabbed me. My Muse. Held me hostage to the tune of over 5000 words every day. Not pretty words. Not always the scenes that melded into a pleasant whole. Once I figured out what she wanted, I tried to fudge those extra words. you know, write garbage.

She knows the difference. Wouldn’t let me concentrate on anything else until I’d written her arbitrary minimum.

I’ve been up for air a few times. I know I have. But for the most part, she’s held me to my keyboard for hours at a stretch. As if this story can’t wait. Has to be finished. Right away.

It’s not even the story I’d been working on. Not any of them. Nope. This is a brand new one I haven’t even planned out in the slightest.

I managed to pry myself away two days ago. I shopped, did some laundry, cooked, and bathed. And watched a few TV shows! I even got to read a book by somebody else!

I paid for that last night. I went to bed at my regular hour, fell asleep fast, as is usual.

At two I dreamt of a scene that just has to go into one of the chapters. Has to. Woke me up. I tossed a few times, talking myself into going back to sleep.

I nightmared I’m writing that scene. The same words over and over. By hand. With one of my calligraphy pens. In copperplate letter forms.

Well, that woke me up again at 3:04am. This time I’m far to agitated to sleep.

I turn on the computer, make a pot of tea, open the story file. And the next thing I know, it’s dawn. I nibble something, make fresh tea, walk the dog before sitting again.

At noon I call a halt. My fingers ache.

I’m exhausted. I think the scene is written but my vision’s too blurry to check. I’ll read what I wrote tomorrow. Right now, it’s time for a nap. Well, right after I post this thing.

I’ve never found any author complaining of this type of thing happening to them. So I have to ask…

Does your Muse ever do this to you?

Have I Lost Time?

The other night we had a windstorm. I went to bed feeling – and hearing – fists of wind striking our home. The house shuddered, the roof flexed, throwing ice off in crashes, the windows rattled. No they didn’t, we had them replaced two years ago. I probably heard my memory remembering how those old casement windows used to rattle.

The storm raged for several hours before the electricity started to flicker.

Great! Winter here. Cold outside – though, thank goodness, not sub-arctic tonight.

I turned off everything that didn’t really need to be on and went to bed. I just knew we’d lose power. And there is nothing so annoying as the power trying to come back on several times, causing the satellite and the microwave beeping as they try to power up. When you are asleep.

I didn’t get everything. I never do. I always forget something that will go BEEP through the night.

Sure enough, hours after I caught that cab to dreamland, a BEEP – no make that a lot of beeps as the power tried and failed – woke me up.

Finally, whatever electricity god sends the spark through the lines gave up.

I wandered the house, enjoying the absolute silence – we live in the country on a little used highway, far from neighbours or other noise emitting bothers.

All our clocks are electric, so I didn’t even have a clue as to the time. All I could see out the window was dark, dark and more dark. No help.

I started to feel the chill around my ankles, so I returned to bed. Power will return. Nothing I can do to help it come back faster.

When I woke up that morning, of course I looked from the satellite clock, to our bedroom clock, and the stove clock.

Confused, I looked again.

The stove clock is exactly 1 hour 20 minutes slower than the satellite clock. Ok. That should be how long we lost our power. Right? Don’t they have some connection to the world-wide time keeping function? I expect them to have the ‘real’ time.

But my bedroom clock, a reliable alarm clock, with a battery backup that I replace yearly just in case, the timekeeper we’ve used for years to wake us, the one that clicks its numbers over mechanically, is 1 hour, 3 minutes ahead of the satellite readout.

1 hour, 3 minutes.

I watched it on and off all day, checked it again this morning as I got up. Still 1 hour, 3 minutes ahead of the electronic timekeeper – the satellite clock.

Now I have to question the reliably of my satellite provider. Or do I?

Have I discovered a time-loop error? Has the whole world lost an hour? Did only those of us with an analog timepiece notice?

Or is it just me? Am I now in the know of a time conundrum?

Is there a seer or a wizard out there who can tell me?

Almost in my Backyard

I live in the country.

It snowed last week. Not really that much. But drifting was severe. Most of the drifts ended up in our driveway. Now we don’t have a tractor. We should. Because the driveway is over 60ft long. That’s about 20 metres. Far too long to shovel by hand when kids have grown up and mostly left.

So we got snowed in. In Alberta, you stock up for the winter, for cases like this. So we didn’t need anything desperately. Sure, my tea supply got a little low. But other than that, we had enough to last.

We didn’t lose our power for more than an hour, so while it was cold outside, we weren’t.

Well, a Chinook arch appeared two days ago. A beautiful sight. Chinooks melt snow if they last a couple of days. So I waited. Sure enough, this morning I went outside to check and the snow had melted enough to make a trip to town.

I happened to look up the hill. The copse of woods on the crest had a hedge I hadn’t noticed before. The hedge moved. I ran inside, grabbed my binoculars and focused from the kitchen window.

The dark spot, that I had mistaken for a hedge, turned her head. I had to look several times. It could be a horse, lose from the farm just south of us. But no, that profile wasn’t a horse. I looked again and saw…

A moose!

She walked out onto the dirt road, back lit by the dawn. Just stood there, turning her head back and forth.

Then I noticed movement in the woods. Just dark, indistinguishable shapes.

I called hubby darlin’ to see, and we both peered through binoculars, waiting to find out what she waited for.

First one smaller, awkward shape appeared, stumbled over maybe a branch or two, and then another.

Momma moose stepped over the fence, just lifted her feet. The little ones, moose twins maybe five/six months old had a little more difficulty. They had to lift their front ends and almost jump – not like the deer we regularly see jumping the fence, deer have to jump.

Momma moose walked across the crest of the hill, standing backlit in that dawn and her babies stopped often, checking out the surroundings, the ground, the sky. All the time posing for us.

We see deer almost daily. There’s a herd that lives nearby, sometimes a few of them sleep in our windbreak here on the acreage.

But seeing the moose. That is unusual. We know they are about. We see them maybe a couple of times a year. I’ve seen male moose charge down the hill after hubby darlin’s truck in the early morning.

But momma moose hides her babies in the coulee. I think.

I’m so glad I looked up and saw her bringing her family out into the world – showing off I think. The twins are beautiful. So gawky and awkward, long-legged and, even at this young age, majestic.

I can see me using their presence in another of the Evermore Chronicles, a bit character. Or maybe a story about a Were-Moose.

I’m so glad I’m able to live in the country.

When Words Collide – Calgary’s Writers’ Festival

In August of 2013 I took my newly published book, Love ‘n Lies, to When Words Collide, Calgary’s writing festival.

I’ve never talked about this event after it happened. I should have. I’m proud of attending. I’m even prouder of being asked to sit on panels and discuss various writing aspects with other authors.

I had a wonderful time.

But until Love ‘n Lies got published I never really considered myself an author. Sure, I’ve lots of short stories published. Some on internet e-zines, some in paper magazines and one in a ‘real’ anthology book.

But I had doubts about calling myself an author. I mean, aren’t authors those people who sit and write a full tome, hundreds of pages long?

I had always thought that having a ‘real’ book published by a real publishing house is the only way I could call myself an author.

Strange when you think about it. Like I’m denying myself a title I deserve through my own hard work.

Anyway. I stood in the hotel lobby, amazed at the number of authors who’d come to present themselves and their books at When Words Collide, Calgary’s writing festival.

I lugged my box of books up to my room, smiling at the friendly faces of authors I hadn’t known existed till now. Talking to them. Once settled in, I wandered around all the rooms, looking at other authors’ books, talking to the bookstores who’d set up, talking to more authors, talking to the people at the Alberta Writers Guild, and talking to more authors.

Finding my books on sale too, at a bookstore’s table. What a rush!

I’m glad I stayed. I hadn’t known about the evening socializing. Which, if I’d gone home, I would have missed.

The next morning, I found where I was scheduled. Can I say I felt honoured to be on panels with real authors? Me, one book, up there talking about writing with authors who have published many.

They not only accepted me, they made me feel just as worthy as them. My opinion as sought and listened to by the audience as the multi-book authors. Wow!

Later, I read an excerpt from Love ‘n Lies to a room full. I managed to get the audience to laugh. And I got feedback from my fellow authors about how much they liked my reading skills as well as how wonderful the scene I read was.

I even met a fan, who walked with me back to the bookstore table, bought my book and had me autograph it. Right there!

Me, the rookie in the room.

I spoke on another panel. Then I hastened to get to some of the events I wanted to hear, listened to what more prolific authors, psychologists, police officers and even acquisition editors had to say on various subjects, taking notes of course.

That night I again mingled with other authors. And with editors from local publishing houses Edge and Champagne right up to Random House and Penguin Canada. Lots of talking, laughing and enjoying went on until very late.

I even met Patricia Briggs, Dave Duncan and Robert Sawyer. In person.

There was a major signing event on Saturday evening, in one of the main floor rooms. I so wished I had lots of dollars to spend, to buy autographed copies from authors I’d met.

I sat, with my books propped up, beside the authors who’d written The Emotion Thesaurus. Wonderful people; funny and warm. And at the same table as Lynda Williams, the author of the 10 novel Okal Rel Saga, and her husband. A warm, friendly author, willing to answer questions from a newbie.

Fans laden with books appeared, lining up to get the famous authors, Patricia Briggs, Dave Duncan and Robert Sawyer, to autograph. Not the lineups I’ve seen for the Toronto Writing Festival. But Calgary doesn’t have that big a population.

I wish I’d brought some of those books to get signed too. But I hadn’t thought of it in the excitement of bringing my books and speaking on panels.

And yes, I did have several readers ask for my autograph. What a rush I experienced from that request. Me, asked to sign the book I wrote, they bought, for them. That felt so good.

But…Calgary did not flaunt this festival for her authors. The local radio and TV stations did not shout out about When Words Collide. I heard they were told about its timing and location.

Now I’ve seen on TV, banners on the hosting hotel in bigger venues, like Toronto, letting the country know that authors were there and available to sign their books. Making lots of noise so fans come. News programs pick up the info, showing it on their programs, even interviewing presenting authors. And radio shows talk about it while interviewing some of the more famous authors.

Calgary’s media didn’t do that for her authors.

I hope next years When Words Collide festival has a better set up for us, the lesser known authors to introduce ourselves, greet new readers and read to them from our books, maybe on the main or second floor.

And hopefully the hotel has both elevators working.

Why Do I Write Fantasy Fiction

Sometimes I get asked why I like to write about vampires, werewolves, trolls and wizards. Let me try to explain.

We moved from Toronto when I was almost six, to the outskirts of a small town.

From the end of the driveway looking past one row of houses the countryside beckoned. Yes, a working farm controlled most of the fields, but there were trees to climb, a swamp not too far away to muck around in, an apple orchard to wander through, several streams to play in, miles of fields and rolling hills, and train tracks that we were told to stay away from.

We had a freedom back them not often offered to kids today. I remember leaving home, in the summer, with only the warning to be back before the streetlights came on. Sometimes I’d be alone, other times with friends. And we’d take off, for hours. No one knew where we were or what we’d gotten up to. My mother sometimes looked the doors, in summer, leaving us a lunch in the milk box at the side of the house. The outdoor tap available for drinks if we got thirsty.

Sure, sometimes we’d get hurt. Scrapes, bruises, a few cuts and little owies were all part of life. I don’t even remember anyone getting badly hurt. Not once.

I remember summer evenings spent chasing fireflies and the few I caught being kept in a glass jar with holes I punched with a nail and hammer in the metal lid dying in the new day. I had several pet spiders I’d feed with moths and insects. I’d sit in the dark and listen to bats fly all around me. I captured polliwogs every spring watching them change into frogs, hunt for salamanders to bring home, catch frogs and let them go. Once I caught a garter snake and managed to keep it for several months, feeding it on worms and grasshoppers. It escaped before winter, much larger than when I’d captured it.

In the cow meadow and forest glade, close enough no one worried about us disappearing into, I’d hunt for toadstool circles and shy forest flowers just past the tree edge.

At the swamp, if I managed to stay out later than when the streetlights came on, I’d be able to see what I now know as phosphorescent glows trying to lure me to my doom. They’d waver as if dancing, just out of reach.

All wonderful play areas to develop a good imagination. Especially after being allowed to freely dip into my father’s extensive library of classic novels, and the local library’s fiction section.

I read Grimms Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s tales. Not the watered down versions of happily ever after the kids seem to read now. I read Bram Stoker and the Bronte sisters early. I hid in a fort to read Frankenstein, scaring myself silly with every crack and rustle around me.

I knew, in my child’s heart and imagination, all these things were possible. From the wicked witches, through monsters and trolls anywhere to fairies dancing in their velvet grass glades on the nights of full moon.

My parents acquired a cottage when I was nine, in northern Ontario, I heard the wolves call their eerie, long drawn out song after dark. I remember having nightmares about the wolves getting inside our cabin more than once the first few years we had the cottage.

Next door we had a swamp with dead and dying trees sticking out of the mud where we played pirates. We shimmied up dead trees, walking the plank of their dead, fallen limbs. With occasional dunkings and many wet or stuck boots. No one felt the least sorry for us when we picked bloodsuckers off bare limbs or pulled slivers out of legs, hands and feet.

We didn’t have electricity for a long time, and the outhouse was a good twenty feet down a forest lined path. I could make the outhouse before the side door slammed shut and lock myself in safely. Then I’d quiver, listening to all the strange night noises and wondering if I could make it back to the cottage safely. I’d stay in that stinky enclosure until my father called asking if I’d fallen in. He must have known about the fears because he’d stand at the door until I made it safely back inside.

Dawn seemed to call me more strongly up there. I’d get up long before the rest of the family. I’d be the only one around at the lakeshore, watching as the mist danced and rose in the dawn light. I saw the mink fish in the shallows if I sat still. I watched the snapping turtle bake itself on the rocks just after dawn. I’d see the fish leap at insects. And I’d hear the loon’s crazy laughter ring across the lake. I loved it up there. My father would leave us there at the beginning of summer, visiting every weekend and over his holidays, and my mother would visit with all the neighbours, feed us and watch over my younger siblings.

I can’t tell you how many dragonflies I saw, with their rainbow wings. To me they could be fairies, hidden from honest view. They’d transform in the evening, back to their beautiful selves, far from prying human eyes, find their glade and dance the night through.

During the days I’d swim and play in the water for hours if it was warm enough. And sometimes when it wasn’t. I knew, from nibbling on my toes while I swam, and from splashes in the water where I wasn’t looking, that underwater beings, not just fish, lived in our lake. I heard their laughter at dusk and in the early morning.

Otherwise I’d don my moccasins and tramp through the forest. I explored for miles. I found the sugar shack; an old building, repaired through the years with whatever was handy until it looked nothing like a well-maintained building. But the tools of sugar mapling inside held a patina of care, hanging on nails waiting for the next early spring use, of large vats carefully overturned on trunks, and what seemed to be miles of copper tubing balanced precariously over dusty windows and door frames. Little rustlings told me for sure there were a type of elf living there, waiting for spring to again help a human.

I found several burnt buildings far from our cottage. One attracted me over and over. Just a shell of huge, maybe two feet by two feet timbers, crusted with charcoal patterns, stone footings made from local Canadian Shield rocks, and a stone chimney that had to stand thirty feet tall. Oh the tales I told myself about that mansion. For, from the size of those footings, it would have been bigger than any house I’d ever seen. Its road had grown over, trees stood majestically tall in the centre of the ruins. So I knew the mansion had to have burned a long time ago. Someone, sometime had built a stone pier, jutting out into the lake. Rotting timbers crowded its side, some fallen into the lake.

Giant trees, fallen in maybe windstorms, with their huge rootballs still covered in dirt made awesome forts. I’d squirm in, of course. And sometimes I’d see some beings excavations leading deep down underground. No I never had the courage to follow. Who knew what I’d find? Some demon or goblin, maybe a gnome or leprechaun? I’d leave special rocks or shells as offerings sometimes, just in case. Under one such rootball, I read The Hobbit.

The cottage was in the Canadian Shield area. All jutting rocks and cliffs rising from the ground. With caves. Mostly the caves were shallow, just barely big enough to creep into. But a few I found, dark recesses twisting and turning far beyond daylight’s illumination; well, those I quailed before. I didn’t even feel comfortable sitting at their entrance. Maybe they held passages to fairyland, where I’d be welcomed. But what if they weren’t?

AS I grew  little older, my friend and I canoed around parts of the lake. Not all around, it is a very big lake. We found swamps where monster pike swam, playing peek a boo with us under the lily pads. One trip we discovered a quartz island with caves under water one bright sunny day. Oh how they sparkled, beckoning us to forget all our lessons and safety. I knew if we could but follow, they’d bring us to a long-forgotten castle. How could they not? We swam into those caves, but not very far. Though we agreed to bring flashlights next time and swim further in, we never found the spot again.

Those were the early years, when I knew, deep in my heart, that monsters, witches and fairies were real. I wanted them to be.

Now I live where I can see the Canadian Rockies. Every clear day. Their majestic peaks play upon my knowledge of caves and gold mining tunnels populated by imaginary dwarves, or mountain streams rushing over boulders and forests climbing the mountain shoulders so high. Oh, and peaks looking like castles built on precipices, overlooking deep, empty valleys.

On a clear day, where the blue sky seems to go on forever, I can see, in my mind’s eye, a dragon flying from its mountain stronghold, playing on air currents just like the hawks and eagles I see above me every day.

So, when someone asks why I write paranormal fiction, I have to pause and remember. I can’t bend their ear for the hours it would take to explain my vivid childhood landscapes and explorations, or the scenery even now I am blessed to behold. They wouldn’t see what I saw or have the memories that help me create a rich tapestry background for the beings I want to believe inhabit this world beside us.

And maybe they wouldn’t even believe.

The Evermore Chronicles Coffin Hop Winner

Congratulations James J Garcia Jr

You picked a number closest to my secret number between 1-1000

Hope you like becoming a security satyr at the paranormal’s popular hangout, Gareth’s Bar, in my newest book, Howling Hearts, in the Evermore Chronicles

Thank you everyone one who posted in the Coffin Hop, and everyone who came and read our little offerings. Great talent.

And thank you, Coffin Hop and Death By Drive-In authors for donating all profits of your anthology to Litworld.org.

Hope to see you all next year.

Evermore Chronicles Celebrates Coffin Hop my 8th post

see lots more at:  http://coffinhop.com/coffin-hop-2013/  Oct 24 to 31st, 2013

Check out COFFIN HOP: DEATH BY DRIVE-IN, profits will be donated to LitWorld.org to help encourage children’s literacy throughout the world.

Hey Coffin Hoppers:

I’ve picked a number between 1 and 1,000.

Whoever guesses correctly or gets closest gets their name used as one of the characters in my

next book. Only one guess per commenter, to be fair. I’ll announce the winner November 1st.

Hop hearty. Visit all the sites. Aspen

______________________________________________________________________________________________

continued from October 30th – 7th post

We Became the Zombie Walk, part two

A few of my new acquaintances from last Zombie Walk didn’t recognize me. Sure, my nose has flattened more this year, I’m wearing thick glasses, and I’ve lost more hair. But sheesh. I haven’t changed that much. I reminded them of our emails. Then I basked in their compliments about my new makeup.

One of them fell, complaining about unseen sidewalk cracks. We all laughed.

Several had colds, sneezing on everyone indiscriminately. I shared my kleenex with one new Walkers. Only slightly used, but she seemed desperate.

We stumbled along, groaning, waving to the onlookers. Some of our group insisted on meeting their fans up close and personal, kissing and hugging. And sneezing. The fans even shared drinks with us paraders.

I, and my fellow diseased, we joined in that fun. Enjoying the accolades and worship. I raspberried several kids and their parents, licked their suckers, sipped their drinks. They showed no fear, no worries about catching any disease.

Father told me not to get too caught up in this acceptance, it’s just a fad. My new friends won’t accept me when they learn of my disease.

Duh. Like I don’t know that. I’m keeping a low profile on that front. No one knows. They appreciate my costume, my makeup, my charm. I’m a real person here. Accepted.

So I walk the Walk, down the middle of the street. One among many. Not singled out. No different than any of my peers for a change. I love it!

I mingle, introduce myself to more strangers. I kiss and am kissed.

For hours we walk. Ending at some previously empty warehouse. I party all night with the rest of the crowd. Exchange bodily fluids in so many ways. So uplifting this admission into everyday life.

At dawn I retreat. Meet up with my real group, discussing the event.

We come to the conclusion these Zombies want a disease. They crave some real cohesion to bind them together. They yearn for that difference that will make them stand out.

I tell of the new clumsiness my old Walk cohorts exhibit. Their complaints of lost toe and finger feeling, their changing skin colour and hair loss.

We all laugh. It’s a given that some Walkers succumb.

We head home, all with visions of attending another. Where we are accepted, fawned over and welcomed.

“Jo,” Father’s voice from his den commands my attention. “A WHO worker will be here this afternoon. Some test need to done. There’s an upsurge of our disease in all major cities. You have been taking your medication?”

I sign, loudly. “Yes Father. Every day.” See, we’re monitored, WHO knows us, every one. Good thing this is my month to take the pills. “Wake me up when they get here. Ok?”

It’s afternoon when Mom wakes me. I stagger into the living room, finding a hooded, respirated, stranger unpacking a doctor bag on the coffee table.

“Where’s the hazmat suit,” I laugh. “I thought we aren’t that contagious.”

I can see her frown through her faceplate. “The latest iteration of the bacterium is more virulent. Isn’t responding to the antibiotics. We’re taking blood samples from all known diseased. Need to ask you a few questions about your outside contacts.”

Listened to Father and Mom talk about their outside excursions. And then it was my turn.

I gave my blood. Stripped for body inspection.

“You are showing signs of coming out of remission,” she shook her head sorrowfully. “Have you been outside lately? I need a list of all the places.”

Father glared when I hesitated discussing my fun. So I came clean. Hey, I had a blast while it lasted.

I outlined my activities, my inclusion at Zombie Walks. I didn’t squeal on my buddies. Let WHO make that connection.

And why should I care about spreading my disease?

Me, the unclean, the unholy. Now you worship my deformities, my costuming. You compliment my outward symptoms and speak of wishes to copy.

I am helping. Not that I’d tell them. But I’m doing my part, spreading my disease.

Next time we all meet it won’t be for Zombie Walk.

I plan to see you all real soon.

At Leper Walk.

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