Musings on muse writing

Ahh, the perils of being a muse writer. Some days, I have no problems writing. On my first novel, in fact, I wrote over ten thousand words on the first day. But then there are the days when my mind is like an unsecured ride in a Tilt-A-Whirl; things are flying every which way and I can’t manage to grab onto anything to save my life.

I have quite a few of those Tilt-A-Whirl days. Mostly due to stress. I don’t handle stress well, at all. I tend to flit from activity to activity or I sit and mope and moan about what I should be doing.

I wish, some days, that I could write more like my husband. He sits himself down, pulls out his outline, and writes all that he’s planned to write. Once he gets started, he has no problems hammering out a steady two or three thousand words a day. He finishes his novellas in a week. Then publishes, then advertises, then rakes in the money.

Which gives me pause, but only for a pause.

I don’t, particularly, write for an audience. Yes, I write a blog. I also write novels and short stories and novellas. But I write what I want, how ever I want, without worrying about whether it’s saleable. My husband, on the other hand, writes to a specific audience with a particular genre firmly in hand.

And that’s all well and good, but when I look at the numbers on Amazon, he far out sells me. But, again, I don’t write to market, I write as desire moves me. I’m most definitely a muse writer, a pantser, a start-and-stop writer. Most days it’s fine enough.

We joke, my husband and I, about how I have fantastic ideas. I’m also a pretty decent editor and proofreader. I write well, at least that’s the consensus I’ve found, but simply writing well doesn’t mean people will enjoy my writing. I do have my fans, though, so I’ll keep writing and releasing, for them and for myself.

When the muse strikes, at least.

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An unexpected find

A dull glint in the bushes caught Kiara’s eye. She glanced around the forest, searching for any sign of watchers. Finding none, the lithe girl slipped into the undergrowth, her deep mossy green leathers blending into the foliage.

In the midst of a small clearing beyond the seldom traveled path was a man. Kiara’s hawkish gaze fell on a quartet of white-fletched arrows. Under the slim wooden shafts, the man’s body was covered in heavy plates of hammered steel. Kiara shook her head, sadly, then reached for her belt pouch.

A heavy silver ring slid easily from the pouch’s mouth. Kiara slid it onto her finger, with the deeply engraved face buried in her palm. Once she was ready, she crawled toward the prone man, her nose wrinkling in disgust at the rancid smell that filled the clearing. Her fingers searched for a heartbeat, but, as she expected, the man’s life had fled.

The silver ring pulsed a brilliant blue when it touched the cold metal armor. Kiara pulled her hand back and clutched it to her chest. Her eyes closed as the ring’s power throbbed in her mind. Her smile grew as the information provided by the ring of identification poured in.

Removing the armor wasn’t easy, but Kiara managed it well before sundown. She lugged the heavy metal pieces deeper into the forest, to a campsite well away from any interruptions. The night passed in drudgery, but the dark-haired girl didn’t mind. Her smile remained wide and catty.

Hammering the dents from the armor was painstaking, but not as torturous as repairing the four punctured places. When the time for polishing rolled around, Kiara’s eyes stayed open by sheer willpower. The lightening sky stole the girl’s smile. Wearily, she rolled up into her bedroll and fell into a deep sleep.

The sun was nearly touching the tops of the western trees when Kiara finally struggled awake. She rebuilt her fire and pulled rations from the pack beside her. A small iron pot also slid free of the bag. With just a few minutes work, Kiara had a pot of trail soup simmering. Her stomach rumbled. She didn’t wait for the soup to cool down before she slurped a mouthful. She ignored the pain and continued to eat. After her dinner, she rinsed the pot and stowed it back in her pack. Then she wrapped herself in her bedroll and slipped off to sleep.

The morning broke with a dense fog creeping across the forest floor. Kiara packed her meager belongings into her backpack, then tied the pieces of armor into a tight pile which she then heaved onto her back. Her knees nearly buckled under the weight of the armor, but she stumbled into motion.

On her way out of the forest, Kiara found herself whistling a merry tune. Her step lightened and she let her voice lift in a bawdy tavern song. By mid-afternoon, she had joined the stream of people headed into the city, to the King’s sportage. She had just enough time to sell the armor to a trade merchant before the archery contests began. Her lips turned up into a cruel smile. The fun was only beginning. Armor of missile attraction should make the day much more exciting.

 

The suit’s rescue

Huge piles of rusted and pitted metal glinted dully in the mid-afternoon sun. Ancient wheeled vehicles held up the newer, though still aged, rubberless hovercraft. In the nooks and crannies left by the transports were other discarded metal pieces, with faded paint and misshapen lumps.

Down in the valley, between two mountains of metal detritus, stood two men. Both were clad in brilliant orange and yellow tear-proof safety suits, made of recycled plasticine strands. With practiced eyes, the pair scoured the scene, searching for useful pieces.

A crane overhead waited for a signal. The hovering automated machine, just bordering on awakening, quivered in anticipation.

One of the scavengers shouted, causing the other to rush to his side. Together, the men moved closer to the largest of the metal mountains. The one who shouted, his hat ringed with the double stripes of a manager, pointed to a faded maroon piece.

The younger man, a mere apprentice by his unadorned hard hat, nodded and lifted a tiny black box to his mouth. He commanded the hovering crane to maneuver into position above the articulated metal the manager wanted.

The crane obeyed immediately. The clawed arm lowered, guided by the apprentice’s words, until it dangled directly above the desired junk. The younger man glanced to his manager for approval, but found none.

The more experienced man smiled faintly and turned to take the comms device from his son. His words to the crane were succinct and rapid. The crane again obeyed, repositioning itself to a safer angle.

The two men moved away from the mound of debris and watched as the crane maneuvered a faded maroon and gold piece from the pile. The crane, heeding instructions, gingerly grasped the upright end of the thing and pulled.

The young man gasped in surprise. His father, a knowing smile on his face, watched the boy rather than the crane. An ancient hero’s iron suit was a rare prize, indeed.

The People of Gendreau

In the eternal twilight of the forest, life was simple for the earth-folk. The People, as they called themselves, communed with the other living things in the forest, from the tiny, hard-working woodmouse to the massive, lordly hawk that flew overhead and from the towering hardwoods that sheltered the people, to the delicately flowering mosses that cushioned the folk’s beds.

For thousands of years, generation upon generation, the People had lived in the Forest of Gendreau. Several clans roamed the sprawling forest, coming together only once every year. During the longest days of the snow season, every member of every clan met in the heart of Gendreau, despite the shortened days and bitter cold. In the midst of the dormant forest, life blossomed within the people. Bonds were formed and children conceived, trading and crafting boomed, and clans grew stronger within themselves and the whole.

On the last night of the gathering, while the eldest of the clans were conferring within a steam-lodge, a shrill, shrieking thunder boomed across the clearing at the heart of Gendreau. The folk, frightened out of their hide huts, gathered together, searching the darkness of the surrounding forest with questioning eyes. A young hunter, bolder than the rest, stepped away from the huddled masses and stepped toward the forest.

The elders calmed their people the best they could, but fear caused their steps and their words to falter. Snow began to fall, though it was not the pristine white that usually floated from the heavens. These flakes, though shaped as delicate lace, were tinged with crimson.

A smell, of iron and blood, washed across the crowd as the elders stumbled through. The terrified people stood frozen, waiting for reassurances that never came.

Near the forest edge, the young hunter still stood, now joined by other of his clansmen. Still more stepped forward, of other clans, but all were young and fearless. The elders consulted among themselves. The leaders of the clans moved to the hunters.

“Go,” they said, their voices strained. “Go and find out what has come to Gendreau, what has come to the People. Run quickly, remain hidden. Take no chances. Return on the winds.”

The hunters shouldered their weapons and melted into the forest.

The elders whispered among themselves. Wild speculations moved within the crush of clans, stifled with the turning of their leaders.

“The gathering ends,” the eldest of the old intoned. “But we will not disperse. The Time of Change has come.”

In shock, the people kneeled, their faces drawn and serious. After a brief blessing from the elders, the earth-folk returned to their huts. But soon enough, all the men of the People had re-emerged, holding tightly to laser-scoped assault rifles and clad in ancient polycarbonate armor.

Vat 1765-243

The machine hovered over the vat of inky liquid. Tubes and wires dangled from the dull metal of the selector, trembling with even the slightest movement of the bulky device. In the control room overlooking the chemical vats, Luther grimaced as he punched in calculations on the main control board.

“I don’t like it,” he muttered to himself, his voice echoing in his headset. The balding man stood and peered over the control board to stare down into the eerily illuminated room below. Hundreds of containers of viscous goo stood in rows on the floor beneath the control center. Each one held several specimens of a particular species.

The control room, on its metal rails, moved on, pushing the attached selector deeper into the bipedal section. The computer ran endless calculations, showing each as a line of green code, on its way to choosing the most desirable candidate. But Luther still frowned. He went over his parameters once more, certain something was missing in his formulae.

The control room shuddered to a halt. As if by free will, the selector moved, the articulated metal arm smoothly maneuvering the wire- and tube-covered metal shell into place. Luther stared open-mouthed at the section and specimen numbers on the screen, then compared them to the numbers below the selector’s main body. He shook his head and slapped the emergency stop button on his command board.

The selector responded slowly. Luther watched in horror as the selector’s tubes and wires snaked into vat 1765-243. The delay was almost too much to bear for the controller. He slammed his hand down on the faded red button twice more, willing the selector to obey.

The machine stopped, finally, the main body halfway to the surface of the inky liquid and its tubes already submerged. Never taking his eyes off the selector, he snaked out his hand and grabbed the inter-system phone handset.

Into the static, Luther harshly breathed, “Command, we have a problem. Parameters, as stated previously, have led the system to choose vat 1765-243. Please advise. Repeat, please advise.”

The static continued in Luther’s ear for several long seconds, with no response from Command. Then, a single word, the word Luther dreaded most:

“Continue.”

 

Struggle

The assembled men stood stiffly in their formations, their gazes blank and expectant. Their leader, in every way less-than-average, stood before the group, his lapel pinned with an electronic loudspeaker. His voice bellowed across the men. His exhortations did little to stir their fires, but still, he continued his incitement.

The waiting mob wore a simple uniform, navy blue and crisp, pure white, with spit-shined black boots. The blinders were leather, like the boots and belts and gloves. The light above the raised platform focused the men’s eyes. The loudspeaker promised hollow rewards while the surrounding darkness smelled of fear.

From within the deep ebony lurking behind the assemblage, a single voice cried out. A solitary syllable, refuting the vileness spewing from the platform. Quickly, it was hushed, but just as rapidly, another rose.

Those few uniformed souls nearest the back turned, their attention momentarily diverted from the words of their duly appointed master. But at an outburst from the small man, their faces flashed forward again.

In waves, voices cried out from the blackness. With each undulation of sound, a few more of the blissfully blinded army turned away from their leader. But the progress of the resistance was slow. For every soldier turned, another outburst came from the tiny leader, insisting on loyalty and faith.

The light and the dark, locked in bitter battle, neither side relenting, neither side clearly winning. For years, the struggle will endure.

The day the earth stopped

I couldn’t tell you what happened to the world. I was asleep when it all went down. Alright, fine, I was passed out from a night of hard partying, but it’s the same idea. I only know that when I woke up, to the sound of the neighbor’s car alarm blaring, there was no one around.

I looked. Really. My roommate was gone, which was only slightly unusual, since it was a Sunday, and he usually slept in on Sundays. Unless his parents were in town, of course, since they insisted on dragging him off to their ritualistic Sunday brunches. So, at first, I figured he was out at some fancy restaurant and my neighbor’s girlfriend was mad at her again.

But when I went over to ask Mel to please, please cut off the alarm, the door was open and no one was home. That’s when I noticed the other doors on the street were open. Lights and alarms were going off all up and down my street, but not a soul in sight.

Back at my place, I turned on the television. Replays of cartoons, religious services, and other programs were playing, just like every Sunday, but nothing that was live; nothing that could tell me what was going on. I left the tube going, to drown out the noise of the car alarms and grabbed my phone. I punched in James’ number, but it went straight to voicemail. So much for my roommate’s help.

I tried calling my parents, three states away. No answer there, either. With my heart racing, I dialed up my sister’s place. If anyone would answer, it would be straight-laced Sarah.

On the fourth ring, someone picked up. But there wasn’t a voice, just an eerie echo of clanging alarms and an overtone of labored breathing. I yelled Sarah’s name, but she didn’t answer. I told her, if it was her, to hold on, stay awake, wait for the cops. I thumbed the red button on my phone, waited five seconds, then dialed 911.

Nothing. No dispatcher, no answer, just nothing. The call rang and rang. Desperate to get help for my sister, and for me, I threw on my jacket and ran for the local fire station, six blocks from my house.

Everywhere I passed was deserted. Doors on houses and cars stood wide open, alarms and lights flashed in unheeded warning. I didn’t notice until I was almost to the station, but, there weren’t any animals, either. None of the dogs that loved to bark and slaver at me while I was on my runs were in their yards. Not one of the haughty housecats was available to turn their tails on me in disdain. I didn’t even hear any of the songbirds that used to provide my soundtrack.

I slowed to a walk. I began to think I was the only person left in the world. I dialed up my sister’s number again. Four rings and then it was picked up, just like last time. But this time, I heard Sarah’s voice. Loud and clear. But it wasn’t a word, it was a scream.