I brush aside the palmetto fronds to see my Muse sprawled across one of those inflatable chairs in the middle of the swimming pool, his arms outstretched, his wings a sodden feathered mass behind him. His face is turned toward the bright sunlight, his eyes are shaded behind dark silver sunglasses. The wind ruffles the surface of the water as he drifts a little closer to the pool’s infinity edge.
I step closer and crouch next to the pool to scoop the cool water in my fingers. Nice. I’d sure like to take an afternoon off myself.
“Why don’t you?” he asks without moving from his languid position. Sweat glitters along his exquisite jaw line.
“Hello, M. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
He raises the frothy orange umbrella-adorned drink to his lips without stirring the rest of his prone form. His skin looks frightfully pale next to his black T-shirt.
“You’re going to get sunburned out here if you’re not careful,” I warn.
“I’ve got sunscreen on,” he retorts and slips the drink into a cup holder on the pool chair. “SPF 200.”
“There’s no such thing as SPF 200,” I say.
“There is now.” He eases himself upright and raises his sunglasses above his eyes to get a better look at me. He appears mildly annoyed. “What do you want?”
I settle myself on the ground by the pool and slip my bare feet into the clear water. “I’m not really sure. But I do want to know how you ended up here.”
He lets the silver shades fall over his black-rimmed eyes and paddles closer so that we’re both under the shelter of the flowering hibiscus trees. Their pink petals litter the surface of the pool and he listlessly picks one up to hold it to his nose, smiling. “The owner is out-of-town and needs a house sitter. Fairly easy to arrange, actually.”
“You mean you get paid for this gig?” I ask in astonishment.
“In a manner of speaking, yes. Unlike you, my dear writer.”
“Please. Don’t remind me.”
“Can I get you anything?” he asks, although he appears to be in no position to get me anything whatsoever.
“I’ll help myself,” I say as I rise. “Don’t stress yourself out on my account.”
“There’s a pitcher of Long Island iced tea in the kitchen …” he starts, but I’ve found the facility myself, a shiny steel granite counter topped affair that Charlie Sheen would be proud of. I return with a Diet Pepsi and settle into one of the wooden deck chairs, far enough from the pool to avoid getting wet should my silly Muse decide a splashing of his writer is in order.
“Why don’t you join me?” he asks.
“I’ve got writing to do, don’t you know? The usual suspects, revisions, classes, blog posts.”
He shakes his head and takes another long sip of his orange drink, then picks out the umbrella and lets it float upside down in the water. It drifts away like a tiny lifeboat for his idle thoughts. “I keep telling you, Writer-babe. When are you going to start having fun?”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve got a lot of side trips happening, and even this little foray into the Hollywood Hills is potential blog fodder.” I glance up to check out the white Hollywood letters above the trees to verify that Morpheus really has taken up residence in one of the most expensive zip codes in the U.S. “What made you decide to take off like this?” I ask.
He quirks the corner of his mouth into a half-smile. “You seemed to have things under control, and every Muse needs some vacay once in a while don’t you think?”
“You think I can manage on my own?” I ask.
“Apparently, but then I see you here, longing for some of this, and I have to wonder.” Morpheus frowns. I haven’t seen him think this hard in a long time. While he ruminates I survey the loveliness that surrounds him. Beyond the infinity edge the city is spread out beneath the villa, clay tile roofs shaded by Bougainvillea and pines and palms, lush vegetation incongruous to this sunny desert climate. Here, in this shady yard, it seems as if the world has forgotten us, one distraught writer and her wayward muse trying to figure out if we’re still on track.
Finally he answers me. “Tell me, Writer-babe. Why do your write stories?”
“To try and understand my life.”
His eyebrows rise above his mirrored shades and he chuckles. “Really?”
“Okay, to get away from my life,” I confess. “And to make myself laugh, and maybe make a reader or two smile.”
“You don’t want to be rich and famous like this dude?” he says and waves his hand to indicate the sumptuous villa behind us.
“Sure, that would be great, I guess. But I know I never will be.” I take another sip of my now lukewarm Diet Pepsi.
“Which is my point, Writer-babe. Why do you drive yourself crazy trying so hard, when you’re already here? You’ve got everything you need right under your fingers; all you need to do is call me.”
I stare at my words as the warm breeze wafts the fragrance of hibiscus over my shoulders and swear I hear the soft thump of a reggae beat from the next door neighbor’s yard. I’m not in my spare bedroom anymore, staring out into my weed-infested backyard. I’m here in Hollywood, enjoying a sunny afternoon.
“So, you gonna come for a swim?” Morpheus asks and pushes himself and his floating pool chair back out into the sunlight. “It’s cooler by the edge.”
So that’s what my Muse did on his summer vacation. How about you? Does your Muse need a vacation?
And, would you let Morpheus watch your house when you’re out of town?
Jungle image courtesy of ‘Lightsource’ ,infinity edge pool image courtesy of Steven Heap both @ stockfresh.com, umbrella image courtesy of ‘Foxuman’ @ stock.xchng
Warning: This will not be the usual Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Believe it or not, this month I’m actually a secure writer. Shocking, I know, but it’s true!
See these handcuffs? That’s what it feels like to be an insecure writer. At every turn, you question yourself: Am I doing this right? Am I nuts to think anything will come of this? Who do I think I am to put words on the screen, when the demigods on the NYT bestseller’s list, who turn out books with fabulous covers and reviews printed in USA Today and People magazine, would declare this endeavor all but hopeless. After all, I’m just a daydreamer who happens to find words for these pretty pictures floating through my brain.
That’s where the Insecure Writer’s Support Group comes in. Founded by the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh ,we gather on the worldwide web to share our insecurities and encourage one another to fight the good fight, never surrender, and all that good stuff. (Oh, and it’s free to join, just click on this linky to add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.)
I joined without a second thought, (two years ago!) back when A Scenic Route was just a place to post my words as I got used to seeing my thoughts up there for others to read. This terrified me beyond all measure, but the kind writers who stopped by and left nice comments gave me a huge boost of confidence. I saw that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Together our collective of nervous writers can slay this beast of insecurity.
But finally, I’ve got a huge milestone to report. Much as I hate talking about myself, I think it’s only right to share this with everyone who has stuck with me through all my whimpering. Remember in June when I fretted about whether a writing contest would destroy my fragile ego?
Check it out:
I would never have had the nerve to send the first three chapters of this story out if it weren’t for everyone who comments here. All your wonderful words of encouragement mean so much to me. Who are these amazing writers who have unshackled me from my insecurities? Where do I start?
Alex J. Cavanaugh of course, but there are so many others! Nancy H. Doyle, Melissa Maygrove, Shell Flower at Tangent Shell, Mark Koopmans, Kristina Stanley, Ivan Borodin, Katherine Lato, Peter Cruikshank, Sammy D at BeMuzin, ‘ArmchairAuthor’ at Ink, Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature, Liana Mir, Amanda Martin, Jamie Ayres, Mike Schulenberg, Will Hahn, Melinda Hagenson, Katie Checkley, Juneta Key and of course, Holly Lisle.
Can you see me glowing? I know there will be more bumps on this exciting journey, but today might be a good time to take a moment and enjoy the view, because as we insecure writers know, the valley of self-doubt is never far away.
How about you? What were some of the most exciting milestones in your writing journey so far? Did something that scared you ever give unexpected results? Let’s celebrate the good stuff this month!
Handcuff image courtesy of Lance Kidwell @ freeimages (formerly stockxchng)
Will he remember me? Will he be forthcoming? Have I completely lost touch with my protagonist? Have I completely lost touch with the last vestige of my sanity?
The door opens and he grins broadly. “Writer!”
It is the first time I have visited him here in his new home, now several years into his happily ever after. “Nick?” I ask nervously. “Do you have some time?”
He laughs and steps aside to let me in. “Of course I have time. In fact, I’ve been expecting you.”
I look him over curiously. He hasn’t changed all that much since I last wrote him and still has that lean confident bearing that drives the women wild, and he still favors black over all other colors. If I looked closely I could probably see strands of grey in the dark locks that fall provocatively in front of his eyes, but I don’t try too hard to find them. Mortality is hard enough to face in myself—no reason to confirm its existence in my characters. “You’ve been expecting me?” I ask and step inside. The hardwood boards creak under my boots.
“Can I take your coat?” he asks.
A fire blazes in the hearth and soft furniture is scattered in front of it. “Maybe in a bit. But can you find a place for this?” I offer him my precious, my laptop.
He takes it with a smile and sets it on a table behind the sofa as I gaze at the artifacts of my story spread out in the room. The sunburst Strat is leaning on its stand, plugged into a rack with headphones tossed on top. I wander toward it, as if drawn by a magnetic force stronger than my own will. “This is the one, isn’t it?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies softly. “You want to play it?” He reaches around me to wrap his fingers around its neck, and the scent of his skin and breath surrounds me.
“Oh no. I don’t play. I just want to touch it.” Which I do, and marvel at the smooth cool surface.
“Can I get you anything?” he asks. “Pop? Wine?”
“No thanks,” I reply automatically, recoiling at the thought of too much wine ruining my chances of discovering what secrets I’ve left unexplored behind those stormy eyes.
I settle into the sofa and open my laptop. “Okay, just a glass of water.”
“That’ll work,” he says and scoots into the kitchen while I pull up the questions for the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Since I see that I’ve already wasted four hundred words summoning him up, I’m determined to keep the answers short and sweet.
Nick returns with a frosty Corona and a glass of water. He leans back on the sofa across from me and lifts the Corona to his lips, taking a long drink while I finish typing. “So, what brings you here tonight? Got more Larry Brooks questions?” he asks.
“Nope,” I reply. “I haven’t given up on those yet but I’ve got some other questions for you. It seems I was nominated for a blog hop.”
He laughs. “Not the blog again.”
“Yes, the blog Nick. They love you over there, you know.”
“Course they do …” he says without a trace of irony, then takes another drink of the Corona. “What kind of blog hop?” he asks.
“It’s the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Urban fantasy writer Juneta Key nominated me last week, and it seems I’m supposed to post on August 18. So here I am.”
I can tell he’s repressing a smile, but seems willing to play along. He sets the beer on the coffee table and runs his fingers through his hair. “What about that guy you’re writing now? Tristan something or other? Can’t you interview him?”
“I thought about it Nick, believe me. But he’s in first draft, and I tend to leave first draft behind the closed door.”
“Okay, fine, but you do realize that our conversations tend to meander?”
He nods and the smile escapes at last. “Okay, shoot then. What do you got?”
I look over the questions and paste the first one onto the screen.
What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
“I think we’ve covered that one, haven’t we?” he points out.
“Yes we have, but for newcomers, I should mention that you are indeed fictional, in spite of all my attempts to portray you realistically.”
He snickers. “Next?”
I whip another question on the screen:
When and where is the story set?
His eyebrows rise. “You want me to answer that one?”
“Sure,” I type.
“Okay. So most of the story takes place in modern Los Angeles, where dreams are supposed to come true but often don’t.”
“And?” I prompt.
“Of course there’s the back story. The Summer of Love, the acid tests, and the music.”
“You know they say the best thing about the Sixties was the music,” I observe. “Do you think that’s true?”
He gives me that skeptical grin. “And what’s wrong with the music of today?”
“Nothing at all, Nick. It’s great,” I say. And because I know that a discussion about music can eat up hours of story writing time I toss the next question on the screen before he can delve any deeper into his favorite topic.
What should we know about him?
He eases back into the sofa, setting his feet onto the coffee table. “Well, they say I’m pretty good with a guitar…” Then he frowns. “Not so good with the ladies.”
“See? I’m modest too.”
“Well there’s that dying thing. You know, about the ghost and stuff.” He avoids my gaze and grabs his beer. “You going to write about that on your blog?”
“Maybe, but I won’t give too much away.”
“Good writer,” he says.
“I try,” I type. But we have more questions. I paste the next one up.
What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?
He rolls his eyes. “Where do I start?”
I sit with my fingers poised over my laptop. “At the beginning?” I prompt him.
“Yes. There’s Stuart, who was a certifiable drunk, not to mention all that other shit—“
I cut him off. “This is a family blog.”
“Yeah, all right. But Stuart. And then there’s Libra. Every time I tried to talk to her, she disappears on me …” He stops, unsure if he should continue.
“Perfect, Nick. We don’t want spoilers. And we are taking your story to Jami Gold, the book doctor, so anything can happen. How about another question?”
This prompts another long drink of his beer. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and I slap the next question on the screen.
What is the personal goal of the character?
“You mean my goal, right?” he asks.
He takes a deep breath, then fixes me with his dark stare. “I think you know what that is. Same as yours, Writer. To share my music, my art, with the world.” He laughs. “Screaming fans. Late nights making music. Touring with guys I can get along with.”
“Babes?” I ask tentatively.
He smirks. “Maybe. You’ll have to write me to find out.”
I pause and think about that for a moment, and I’m relieved to find that the next questions are easy.
Is there a working title for this novel and where can we read more about it?
Nick sits with his arms across his chest and asks, “You can field that one, right?”
“Are we done?” he asks.
“We’re never done, Nick,” I type, glancing anxiously at my word count. “But yes, this post is almost over. There’s one more question, but it’s for me.
The question everyone seems to be asking these days appears on the screen.
When can we expect the book to be published?
“What do you think, Nick?” I smile at him and he grins back.
“The book will be published when it’s ready to be published,” he states.
So that’s my bloated, rambling character intro. Do you get carried away with your characters like I do?
But wait, don’t go yet. I have nominees!
The super-talented Kristina Stanley whose manuscript Descent was nominated for the Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Author Award. Its sequel Burnt was nominated for the UK’s Crime Writer’s Association Debut Dagger.
Look for their Meet My Character posts next week. I can assure you they will be much shorter than this one! (Okay, maybe not Will’s …)
Water images courtesy of ‘Homydesign’ @ stockfresh, masks courtesy of ‘Lucretious’ @ stock.xchng
No, I’m not talking about my lifeless blog–although I can see why you might think that. I’m talking about my novel, and I’m worried …
This month’s insecurity is brought to you by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a whole bunch of awesome created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers (like me!) who have issues with their self-confidence. Are you insecure too? Fear not! Just click on the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
So, about my novel.
Last month I got back the last of my reader critiques for The Tempest’s Serenade and was thrilled that everyone seemed to like the story. Some readers were confused– some were very confused– but in general they found the characters to be compelling and the concept interesting enough to keep them turning the pages. I’m excited to start in on my next revision. It was scary to share a story that I felt was so broken, but I’m really glad I took the plunge.
Something surprising came up in the critiques. I’m finding that more than one reader has strongly suggested that, after nothing more than a polishing pass and a run through spell check, I self-publish The Tempest’s Serenade as it stands right now.
That’s wonderful, right?
Then why do I want to curl up into a ball muttering, “No No No No No no nonononononono …”?
How could I in good conscience perpetrate this mess upon the world? My readers are confused by the story. Hell, I’m confused by the story.
I had to walk away from my computer after I read that suggestion and do something else. I pulled the weeds out of my front yard. I took a long walk in the woods. And I pondered. Should I take that advice? Am I simply dragging my feet on this story? Should I let it go and move on to something else?
Eventually after consulting my playlist (where my Muse lives), I pulled myself together and realized that, ultimately, I am the warden of my own stories. No one else, not even writers I respect, can tell me what to do with them. I don’t even think an agent or a publisher can push me in a direction I don’t want to go in. I need to learn to be true to my vision, even if that vision is still fuzzy.
Does that make me an uppity artisté? Does that mean I will never make a dime writing fiction?
Good thing I like my day job, isn’t it? Because I’ve decided to be true to myself and proceed with another revision. I didn’t sit down to write A Story; I sat down to write this one. And I need to stop and think before I do something that feels wrong for me. Putting The Tempest’s Serenade out into the world with so many loose ends is something that feels wrong to me on a fundamental level.
Will I know when it’s finished? I think so. I hope so.
How about you, insecure writers? How do you know when it’s time to send your story out into the world? Am I crazy to keep banging away at this story?
Toy image courtesy of David Jones, thumbs up image courtesy of ‘magicmarie’ both @ Stock.xchng
No, I haven’t utterly disappeared! But I’ve been pulled head over heels back into my writing as I’ve fallen in love with my story again.
What’s it like to be in love with a story? Is it like the puppy-love infatuation teenagers have when they hold hands for the first time or cast shy glances across the classroom at their new-found crush?
Maybe. Because that’s how it was in the first draft of the story, when everything was rosy and bright and the words flowed onto the page like cream into my coffee, and tasted just as sweet when I read them back to myself. This is when characters lead me by my furiously typing fingers into their world, and didn’t let me go until a hundred thousand or so words later I looked up breathlessly to find that I’d filled another Scrivener document with their adventures.
Now I think my love might have matured into the real thing. This is the love that cleans up the dirty dishes after dinner and mows the lawn on Saturday afternoon. This is the love that gets up early in the morning to cook breakfast before heading off to work, and that welcomes me into its arms telling me I’m beautiful no matter how sweaty and mud spattered I look when I come in from working in the yard.
Revision is this kind of love. This love reads craft books like Save the Cat, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Story Engineering. This love is working with book doctor Jamie Gold (thanks to a lucky break and a blogiversary prize) to bang out my plot inconsistencies once and for all. This love painstakingly enters each and every comment from my critique partners into worksheets in preparation for yet another draft.
Still, there are moments where my passion for this story makes me feel like a teenager in the throes of her first crush, and that calls for a playlist, don’t you think?
Click here to visit my playlist on YouTube.
Have you ever fallen in love with a project you thought was past hope? What do you do when you want to restore faith in your abilities?
And, is this leap of faith the real reason they call it ‘make believe’?