Is There A Muse In The House?

Listening to: Moby, Natural Blues

Someone asked me if I had a writing muse. My first response was, “no.” I was thinking about the movie The Muse with Sharon Stone and remembering how she was actually in the same room with Albert Brooks as he wrote, or tried to, and I don’t have that type of muse.

The Free Dictionary lists muse as a guiding spirit, a source of inspiration, a poet.
I agree with guiding spirit and inspiration, but poet? Not necessarily.

I’ve had a few muse’s in my life and I can honestly say, they are true to their definition. My writing seemed to flow from my fingers after reading an email, text or notes from them. Sometimes, if I were logged into a program (email, Facebook, etc.) and I could see that my muse was there available to chat, I could write for hours without sending much more than a “Hi!”

It helped that one muse happened to be an artist as well. It was like I fed off of the creative energy coming through the computer or maybe that was the radiation, but I choose to believe the former.

I also use music as a muse and find myself sometimes unable to write without it. Depending on the story, the music needs to be in a specific genre. Case in point, I wrote Highway 90 to Alternative/Grunge/Heavy Metal, but when I tried the same playlist with Johnny Mustang it didn’t work so well. I think I wrote about this in a prior post on Soundtracks.

So, how do you find a muse? What makes a good muse?

Hard to say. Maybe consider what you need from a muse (someone cracking the whip or someone to talk shop with?) They could be a family member or online buddy you met in a forum.

For me it was someone I already knew who was creative as I said earlier. I liked that they understood the process of taking a thought, an idea, and making it into something real that people could touch, read. Within that understanding were kind words always ready and willing to encourage and reassure me that I should keep writing. More than a few instances my muse told me to get to work, stop wasting time, and crank out a best seller. This is the personal side, the human touch, that I like about muse’s that music just can’t offer.

Muse’s as inspiration for stories is also completely believable as I didn’t start writing Highway 90 until after I started a dialogue with my artist muse. Pieces of the story took shape around my muse and I even wrote my muse into my book (bit part at the end). I often wonder if I would have written the story if not for my muse. Looking back I can say no, the trail to this story leads straight to my muse. Before that, I was scribbling junior high dialogue for another young adult book I’m in the process of writing.

The hardest part about having a muse is remembering the muse has a life too, meaning they may not always be there or have to leave completely, for long periods of time or maybe forever. Let me tell you, the leaving part sucks. To me, it felt like I was drowning in my own drivel. At times my writing just didn’t make any sense and the dialogue turned into a conversation I’d written two pages back. Seriously! I wanted to scream countless times throughout the day, “Where’s my muse?” (pathetic picture, I know) Anyway, my point is, don’t misuse, overuse or abuse in any other way your muse. They are treasures that don’t come along every day, okay for me they don’t, so keep that in mind.

So, I guess the short answer to the initial question that started this post is, yes I have a muse, a constant muse, which is music. Would I rather have a person? Of course. I have in the past and it’s different than music, but much more fun, fulfilling, as only human interaction can be.

Happy Musing!

Operation Romance Rescue

Maybe since it’s Valentine’s Day or maybe because I also write romance, but have yet to release any true romance novels, or maybe because I’m a hopeless romantic in the truest sense of the term, whatever the case I thought it would be a good time to wax ecstatic about…you guessed it, romance.

Like I said, I have yet to release a romance novel, however, that does not stop me from having loads of romantic influences and opinions mostly on the lives of other people. So with all these thoughts and ideas racing through my head I figure the least I can do is offer a few tips and opinions when it comes to romance.

These tips are based solely on my own experience, or lack thereof, and ideas with a few worked out while standing on the outside looking in on the lives of my friends. Sometimes, it’s easier to see the logic in our lives when others point it out, but I digress.

My first tip is aimed at the Love Lost crowd. This group includes: the one that got away, the one that never was, the relationship you screwed up, the one person you can’t get over. You know who you are.

Here’s a brief example to set the tone: Casual friends living together become more than friends. Their relationship is great, open and straight forward, non-confining, but monogamous. Then there’s an issue, maybe an argument, maybe other friends are involved wherein one side of the relationship makes a smart-ass comment to lighten up the mood. This doesn’t bode well for the other partner who takes it personal and cuts off the relationship immediately, as in “get out” with little or no discussion otherwise. The person whose been cut-off can’t for the life of them, apologize enough or talk any sense into the party who has excommunicated him/her. Nor figure out why their comment was taken out of context when he/she is pretty much known for being a smart-ass.

My plan of Romantack (Romance + Attack):

* Note – the tips that follow assume you want this person back, if not romantically, then as a friend at the very least. If you do not wish to rescue the relationship then proceed to my book page where you can buy lovely stories not about romance.

1. Assess your skills. If you are highly skilled at anything artsy be it painting, drawing, sketching, writing, candle making, underwater basket weaving, etc., know this will be your strong suit and where you will be focusing a lot of attention. Musical ability also falls into this category.

2. Create. Use your artsy skills to create anything for said person who has cut you off. Keep a few things in mind: Was this person partial to a certain type of art you created? (a figure, a scene, style, song, etc.) What did he/she like that you could incorporate into your art? (favorite animal, place, etc.)

Example: If you are skilled in figurative art then I highly suggest you fill a sketchbook with drawings of your true love. Maybe place him/her in different scenes where you both were when together, happy, special places or some place you talked about going like Greece. Seriously, is there anything more romantic? Perhaps, but we’ll leave that for later.

3. Present art. You may find that trying this in person has dramatic effects and may be painful. Therefore, I recommend using the mail option. Either snail or email. Take a photo of said art and email it with a brief message, which I’ll go over later. If you absolutely must deliver this in person, then be prepared, not only to be rejected or met by someone else (Hey! It could just be a friend, don’t assume), but you must know what you’re going to say if anything at all. Believe me, sometimes no words speaks VOLUMES and if you’ve included a note then you’re good.

4. Messages. Is it just me or does everyone get sappy when given a love letter? No, it can’t just be me, so flex your fingers and get out a piece of paper. Yeah, it’s gonna be handwritten. Why? Because it shows how much you care, and that you care at all, especially when considering how little people write by hand these days with computers, cell phones, text to chat. Trust me, the person who receives it will appreciate the extra effort and am I the only one that finds handwriting sexy? The curly tails of some of the lower case letters, the way a ‘t’ is crossed or a letter is slanted. It makes me feel somehow closer to the person I received it from as if they’ve shown me another part of themselves. Maybe that sounds funny, but like I said earlier, I’m a hopeless romantic.

– Start simple, Dear *Name of Person* — Probably drop the cute nickname for this note. I don’t know, to me it seems like if you’re trying to tell him/her that you seriously care then “Dear Pooky Bear” just sounds too…cute. Like you’re still together and just had a little disagreement.

Don’t sound like a regular letter, “How ya doin’?, How’s life?, How’s your cat?” This is a LOVE letter so you are professing love for this person. Use statements like, “I think about you everyday, the way you played with your hair while you read, your singing in the shower, the way you lit up whenever you saw a butterfly then closed your eyes and made a wish.” There are plenty of endearing things you remember about your true love, so let them know. Sure, some are overused and sappy, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries. Make it your own, change words, add words, then there’s the Internet if you’re still drawing a blank. 😉

Don’t make it about YOU. Your focus should be solely on him/her, NOT on you and definitely NOT on what you think went wrong, who was to blame, how it should be fixed, etc. etc. If you’re going to place blame, place it on yourself. Something like this, “I blame myself for not listening more, being more attentive, being more appreciative.” I might steer clear of “I blame myself for letting you get away” since it sounds like the person was trapped…by you. Trapped is negative anyway, so something like “I blame myself for getting lost in my selfishness not realizing I was losing you, us.”

Do keep it short. Unless you’re writing a story or poem, don’t go on and on about the relationship rehashing the past and how things were, even if you make them sound pretty – “I remember the times we ate ice cream at midnight. Chinatown was such a blast on New Years.” You hope the person hasn’t forgotten about all of the great times you had together and they probably don’t, but this operation requires you think ahead. You want him/her back because you see a future with them, one that doesn’t include focusing on the past. Keep that in mind when/if you get back together too. Forget the crap that happened in the past and NEVER bring it up again especially NOT during an argument.

Also, if you do write a story or poem don’t mimic your relationship in the story and change names then have the two characters get back together at the end. It might work, but depending on how you write and how soon you give it to the person, he/she may not be ready and alienated even more. Remember, your goal is to open up the communication train, not jump straight back into the relationship.

5. Skill challenged. If you made it this far you’re probably thinking there is no hope for you, but, alas, here is a simple way to start. Create a YouTube playlist of songs that are cool, express how you feel, use the words you wish you wrote. It’s simple. Sign-up for an account on YouTube then surf for songs. Under each video is the option to “Add to,” click on this and select “Add to New Playlist.” Each song after that can be added to the playlist you created by clicking the “Add to” option. In order for your true love to view this you need only go to your Videos tab click on the playlist you created then Share. It will give options such as embed, email, copy and paste URL, etc. Then send it.

Also, if you’re so inclined, creating a video for said true love would be romantic too. For the musically gifted how about a tune? My God that’s romantic! Maybe create a video collage using photos of your true love, places you’ve been, want to go,etc. Word to the wise, I wouldn’t post this on YouTube until you’ve sent it via email. I mean, yeah it’s romantic, but posting photos of your true love could go either way. Know what I mean?

I created a playlist with a sampling of love songs (“I screwed up/I can’t live without you” songs) to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. I tried to mix up musical styles because, let’s face it, guys don’t always like soft melodic, sappy love songs. I would suggest looking for songs that have the lyrics on screen to reinforce the message you’re trying to send and…do you really want your true love getting lost in the eyes of Adam Levine or Rihanna and forgetting the whole point of the playlist? Again, just my two cents. (* side note: some videos are prohibited from being played back in a playlist, go figure. So, double check the playlist in your account or send the link to your own email prior to sending to your true love.)

 

So, that’s it. My apologies for going on so long. Once again I’ll tell you, I am a hopeless romantic, which means I could’ve gone on even longer, but, alas, I’ve got books to write. 😉

* Disclaimer – The recommendations listed above are not guaranteed to work. They are only ideas that this hopeless romantic would cave under in the worst of ways. If nothing else, understand these are things my characters would do, say, write, act on, but that’s because I make them. 😉

Pen Names And Lies

So, I’ve had more than a few people ask me why I’m using a pen name for my children’s book(s) because, after all, “I know it’s you who wrote it.” Thanks, but before you get on your Twitter and scream it to the world like it’s the exposé of the century, let me explain the reasoning behind why I’m using a pen name.

1) To differentiate between genres. You may not think this is a big deal because readers will be able to see the difference between the title descriptions and categories not to mention, the cover art is a dead give away. Well, you’re right, but there are quite a few younger kids using the Internet and browsing for books. I’d rather not have them download one of my young adult books and have their parents ranting at me in a 1 star review.

2) Branding. Sometimes readers, if they like a book, will search out additional titles by said author hoping for similar content. By having a pen name I further set myself up to be associated with a certain genre such as children’s books, therefore, not confusing my audience.

Is it a bad thing to be associated with multiple genres? The short answer, no. Unless you’re writing something polar opposite to your other genres such as children’s books and erotica. I would definitely hope that you are using a pen name if writing in these two genres because all of your books are connected on most digital retail sites, which means the child searching for more kids books by you will also be exposed to your racy adult themed titles.

I’ve read posts by other authors making humorous jabs at us pen name users who may not remember what name we’re posting under and reveal ourselves anyway. So be it. It does require more marketing and promotion, therefore, separate accounts for social media, email and even websites does makes sense. However, with the host of tools available, including HootSuite, marketing and promotion can be contained in one area with one login.

Other reasons writers might use a pen name include:

Anonymity – some writers need the cloak of a pen name because of various situations, don’t want family/coworkers to find out,  it helps them to write more freely than if they used their own name, pursuing traditional publishers at the same time they’re self publishing, etc.

Individuality – some writers believe their real name is too similar to another public figure/writer, etc.

Uniqueness – then there are writers who believe their name is too common or maybe not common enough (read – too hard to pronounce much less spell).

In the long run I don’t think using a pen name is going to hurt an author, at least not in my case. If people really want to find out everything I’m associated with they can with a little sleuthing. The Internet is just that accommodating. Have I lied by using a pen name? To some degree, but if I link my other pen names to my website explaining to the reader that I use other names, then it’s not a lie, right? Hopefully it doesn’t cause a rift between me and my audience and if so, I’ll write about that too!

Soundtracks & Stories

I’m one of those people who loves music  as much as or more than writing (*gasp!* Did I just say that?), so most of the time when I write, like really write, sitting at the computer late at night transcribing chicken scratch and making more stuff up to fill in the cracks, I have headphones on tuned in to a varied mix of melodies on Pandora.com.

My stations range from classic rock, to progressive, alternative, grunge, pop, hip-hop (hey there’s a place and time) and others. It really depends on what I’m writing. However, music doesn’t always play a role. For instance, my children’s book wasn’t written to music. I tried a few times and found that the character kind of changed, became more updated current cowboy, if you will, instead of ‘old west’ as is his time period. I thought about listening to older country music, but, alas, I just couldn’t do it. That’s one style of music I don’t think I’ll require any time soon and, yes, that’s on purpose.

When I write I think about the characters listening to music and usually end up writing songs into the stories. I think this gives another dimension to the characters particularly if they comment/react to the song (not to me, of course). I also think music can add the time/space dimension meaning, I think you can pigeonhole the century/decade/year in which a story takes place just by using music from that era continuously throughout your story or scene. We’ve seen it done in movies so we know it works, but sometimes in books it may get lost if other details don’t fit the era like style of dress, slang or popular fashion items. To me, I like using music in my stories with my characters because I think it makes them more real, maybe because music makes me feel more real, alive.

Anyway, for my debut YA release, Highway 90, I listened to A LOT of music. I jumped between music styles, based on the various scenes my characters were in, which included a night club, but made sure they were all released during a certain musical era (see if you can figure it out). Incorporating different styles allowed me to show the versatility of my characters as well as their depth to some degree. Perhaps their brooding darker side as well.

Below are songs actually mentioned in the book and some that aren’t, but they moved the story forward for me, so I’ve included them as well. Some of the songs may seem — hardcore — and you may not like them or may wonder, “how could this song affect the story?” Rest assured, I thought the same, but sometimes it wasn’t the beat, but the lyrics or vice versa, that moved me and the story. Sounds strange, but sometimes a song gave me the push to go further with my characters and storyline to places I didn’t think I would go or could go. Believe it or not, sometimes it was the singers voice. 😉

So now on with the show! Artist and title in bold above the track. Click the arrow on the left to play (for you newbies ;)). They’re in order of appearance (or would be appearance if I would have mentioned them in the story) that’s why you don’t see all R.E.M. songs grouped together because the story faded on their song ‘Belong.’ Hope that makes sense.

Highway 90 Soundtrack

Soundgarden, Jesus Christ Pose

R.E.M., Radio Song

R.E.M., Losing My Religion

R.E.M., Near Wild Heaven

R.E.M., Me In Honey


Dance Club Songs

2 in a Room, Wiggle It

Bele Biv Devoe, Do Me

Jane Child, Don’t Wanna Fall In Love

Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus

Warrant, Cherry Pie

 

Megadeth, Tornado of Souls

Chris Cornell, Seasons

Pearl Jam, Alive

Alice In Chains, Would

R.E.M., Belong


 

 

Short Story Cover Art Preview

Geez! It’s like a ghost town over here. Sorry guys!

I’ve been editing my young adult novelette while working with a few different artists on the cover art. I think I’m finally ready to publish, but thought I’d post the covers and synopsis to give you an idea about what’s been in my head for the past few months.

As you can see, I’m indecisive about the cover design, mainly the title. Below are only three of the many variations sitting on my hard drive.

Feel free to let me know which design you like better.

I’m planning on releasing the story January 1, but could be sooner.

Thanks!

Synopsis: For Brooke and Paige, life in a small border town is getting boring. The same faces cruising the boulevard and getting drunk in the desert just feel so ‘high school’ until a trip to a Mexican nightclub changes the way they view life, love and freedom.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode To My Hair

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted long hair. Doesn’t every girl? However, it was easier for my mother to manage short hair until I was ‘old enough to take care of it myself.’ As soon as I understood what that meant I became Jose Eber. Anything that had to be done with my hair I learned including the use of a curling iron when I was six so I could look like Dorothy Hamill.

It became my personal mission never to have short again at least not as short as a man’s, which is one horrifying memory from second grade. I’ve grown my hair long and had it cut or ‘styled’ about every two or three years until three years ago when I made the mistake of visiting Fantastic Sams. I brought photo after photo of hairstyle I wanted, but the stylist kept saying things like, ‘Those bangs won’t look good on you,’ ‘Your hair is too curly for that style,’ or, my personal favorite, ‘You want that? Well, okay,’ the stylist’s face looking as though I’d just asked for a Beehive, on fire. It’s just layers and bangs! Come on already!

So began my journey to Rapunzel. Not that I intended it to be such, but I wasn’t giving it much attention until I found the perfect hairstylist. Until, one day, I just got tired of the way it made me look – old, hanging in my face making my forehead look ten times bigger, not to mention sitting on it at every turn (imagine that). I mainly wore it in a braid down my back, which was also getting tiring. So, I found an holistic salon made an appointment and SNIP! It was gone.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I feel like a different person, maybe look like one too. It kind of reminds me of writing in a sense that my first draft goes on and on and on. Even though I know I won’t keep a lot of the information I just keep writing, letting the words come out as I see and hear them in my head. Then, when I’m finished, I start cutting and shaping the story adding highlights and low lights, blowing out the junk and applying a final spray of adjectives before sending it off to a real editor. So, to thank my hair and all it’s ‘time served’ I wrote a little poem. Enjoy!

Ode To My Hair

Long, thick and kinda frizzy
Thank you hair for keeping me busy
Washing, brushing, drying maybe a braid, but always tying you
Out of my face because, it seems, you were every place.
You kept me warm, probably woulda saved me from a swarm
Of bees, but, alas, I must confess, you mostly made me look a mess,
Not to mention out of date and just plain old.
So with a breath I mustered bold and had you cut with shears of gold.
Waiting on my desk, so beautiful, soon will come the day you go on Ebay
Where you will be sold.

Writing More Than One Book At A Time

Okay, so I sat down to work on the sequel to my children’s book yesterday and wasn’t ‘feelin’ it.’ Instead, I opened up a whole new document and started writing dialogue for a different book entirely.

Has anyone else had this happen?

The flow of words was so natural and I knew exactly what I wanted to relate to the reader. Granted, it is a far cry from my children’s book, but it is has more of me in it, which I think is why it was so easy to start. Now, to keep it going. I estimated that if I wrote between 1500 and 2000 words per day that I could be finished in thirty days. Of course, we’ll see if I can stick to that schedule since I have three other WIP’s all at different stages of completion.

I’m focusing on them in order of ‘easability.’ Is that a word? Basically, the easier it is for me to write (ideas coming at me clearly) the higher it is on my list. I’ve also determined when I can work on certain books, such as naptime for YA novel and bedtime for children’s book. I’ve reserved morning tea time for the new book I started, which doesn’t leave any time for my Romance novel, which has been hanging in the balance for months. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to make due until Nursery School starts.

Into The Frying Pan

I’ve officially decided to call myself a writer after spending nearly a year working on my first novel (romance). No, I’m not published, yet. I guess that’s why I don’t call myself an author, yet. After reading a lot of information on various writing boards I’ve decided to self publish only because I’m impatient and know I can’t wait six months to a year for an agent to sign me and sell my book to a publisher. Then who knows how long after that before my book is actually published and put in bookstores.

The funny thing is I’m really a closet procratinator. Okay, my family will tell you I came out of that closet a long time ago, but the funny thing is although I know I procrastinate I continue to do it. Take for example the novel I’m working on. I started it August 2010 and I’m still in revisions. It’s not that I don’t have time to revise, because I do (like now), but I choose to fill it with other (many times meaningless) things.

However, I digress. From my earliest recollection I’ve loved to read and tell stories. Sometimes I would even record them or write them down. I was really turned on to writing in ninth grade when an English teacher assigned a poetry and short story journal, then had us actually create a kind of scrap book decorating each page. From then, I started keeping a journal (which one day I’ll revist), which I think helped me to find my voice at least from a first person omniscient point of view. I continued to keep journals off and on (more off than on) throughtout the years, but never had the nerve to sit down and write a complete novel thinking I ‘just wasn’t good enough.’ Although, it’s what I really wanted to do, so finally I did.

They’re still ‘works in progress,’ but I’m aiming to have my children’s book published by the end of this month. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for joining me on my journey!