All posts by Heather

To The Grave: Lesson Learned, For The Last Time

By now, everyone knows how much I like to talk about muses and my muses, and that really is the truth. The majority of them (character influencing) have been unreachable, intangible people. There have been several that were/are people I know, and for the most part I keep that knowledge to myself. The first time I told someone, he was cool with it. He still is and he’s a friend of mine. We don’t talk much, hardly see each other, but it’s always a pleasant experience when we do–he also loved the book he was in. In his case, he was strictly a character muse. The second time I told someone (also a character muse), it turned into a completely psychotic and frankly, Terrifying, event for me. It involved having to block him from social media, which was a real disappointment. After that, I vowed never tell anyone about their influence, inspiration and involvement in one of my stories ever again, even though I got a good reaction the first time. Even though it eats away at me that I can’t share what I consider to be something pretty damn amazing with the person who most deserves to hear it.

Of course, sometimes my mouth gets ahead of me, and this most recent time is an example of that. This time, it wasn’t only a character or just the story that was affected–it was both and two characters in two different stories, at that. I have never, in all of my writing life, had something so perfectly beautiful, immediate, or intense happen to me or my work. Anyone who has been paying attention to any of these posts over the years, or knows me in real life, knows that I wake up each day for my writing; that I am as compelled to create as I am to breathe. Without this, I truly feel that I have nothing, because everyone and everything else seems to move on without much warning, or even consideration that I might want to go along. I have no such thing as “home”. Writing is “home” to me. To have someone with whom I’ve crossed paths have this sort of effect for both the character(s) and story is a once in a lifetime thing. Truthfully: not just on my writing and I’d be a total liar to say that, in this case, something deeper didn’t also get tapped. Considering that I am actually quite hard to reach on a deeper and lasting level: This just Doesn’t Ever Happen. In this very moment, I’m questioning whether it actually did happen…I say this because I shared these sentiments with this muse, and I believed it was well and sincerely received.

For about five days.

I have learned that people don’t like to be told they inspire me. They say they do, and maybe they just change their mind. Maybe they think it becomes a responsibility (it isn’t) and then don’t want it anymore. It could be that it’s something really easy to forget, just like any other compliment. Whatever the case, I am feeling a pretty heavy weight in my heart that says the honor of this gift in my head/heart/soul, had an expiration date. It meant more to me, just as it always does.

I doubt I’m explaining this very well at all. I feel lost and, yes: utterly distressed. I’ve considered not finishing the story even though it’s so close to being done, even despite the detriment it will cause me to let it go.

What the hell happened??? What has this done to me??? Who was this person, Really???  I’ve never even had a lover–to whom I gave my entire heart, who straight up abandoned or even ghosted me–effect me like this. Someone shot an arrow this time and it struck hard and irretrievably deep. The barbs are so sunken and clenched in such a bite on all that I am, that I can’t even reality check my way out of this. Under normal circumstances, if someone met me just over a week ago and things shifted from ethereally warm and friendly to something inexplicably tepid at best (as seemed to be our last interaction), I would be able to just shrug it off and move on. Muses are replaceable–usually. But this is unshruggable. This is not a normal circumstance. Again, I ask:

WHAT. THE. HELL. HAPPENED???

I’m scouring my memory of our too few interactions to try and figure out how I might have given the wrong impression, overstepped bounds–Under-stepped bounds; gave too much of the right impression; gave insult, created unidentified trouble–anything to chalk this up as karmic backlash, because at this point, I have no other explanation. Under other circumstances, I would probably ignore all that too, but something in all this requires a resolution. Maybe it wasn’t an arrow–maybe it was a harpoon dart, and it has pinned me--all of me…mind, soul, heart…–to the wall of an endless cliff of WTF confusion. Now I’m just hanging here, waiting for the kraken to pull me off of it, harpoon and all, and swallow me up just so this will pass. Excuse the dramatics, but I think what I’m feeling right now warrants a few colorful metaphors. Trust me: it’s not nearly as painful for you.

It’s possible that I have, through unacknowledged wishful thinking, read too deeply and in several respects. I’m hardly patient, though I try to be, and that doesn’t help either. Shifts in other people’s moods are not my responsibility, but actions are louder than words and as that is a lesson my last relationship seared into me repeatedly, it’s one I’ll never forget. Until I have clarification otherwise, I will be unable to help thinking I had a hand in this change and I wish I could have the chance to repair that. It means enough to me that I would do whatever it takes. Situations matter to me, people matter to me: I care. But rarely am I affected like this, and in comparing this musing to all others, I’m not sure I ever have been–not like this, and not in any other kind of circumstance either. I care to a devastating degree this time and I can’t explain any of it beyond the words I’ve posted here…

I will write his story. I will continue working on the other project that he has also touched, even knowing that all I can do is try to hold fast to the snapshot of what of him inspired all of that, and me. As my life lessons never seem to be truly painless, and this is proving to be a crowning example, I know now that–no matter what comes to pass–I will never again reveal the identities of my muses, least of all to them.

A “Secret” Midday Post

As I stated at the very bottom of my last post (beneath the picture of my empty pen), I gave in and started working on “Staged”. As of last night when I succumbed to bedtime, I had eight pages done. So far today–five more. I’m finding I cannot write nearly quickly enough to keep up with my thoughts, though I’m certainly trying to! I am curious to know how much more I will get done this evening. I hope to break twenty pages (at least) by the time I return to the cirque tomorrow night. I suppose it would put some validation on my requests to be able to say, “Yeah–I’m 20(+) pages into it already.” Not that I have to justify myself, though I imagine not many people walk into a venue claiming, “I’m writing a story about this”. At least, not many who would make that claim and actually mean it or carry it out. It’s nice to know that, for all that I make up, the part about writing a story is true and made up in a completely different way.

Wow–rambling.

Needless to say, I’m really excited about this story for so many reasons. It’s not with every piece that I get to be IN the setting, or around my real life muses. It’s such an incredible honor that I will probably mention it again. It’s hard not to be gracious about it as well and I hope that I remember to express that at every opportunity.  I recognize the rarity of the situation, and that is pretty big as well. I think I get more out of it–I have the chance to (hopefully!) think of all the right questions to ask while the answers are so close at hand, and I would certainly be a fool not to take advantage of that!

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A Rare Specimen

Despite what I said in my last post about needing a photograph of two of my muses, I’m actually lousy at taking pictures. I get caught up in moments and just forget all about capturing images–that’s why I don’t have an Instagram account and probably never will. In the case of the muse photo that I’m going to attempt to get on Friday evening… Ah, to what astronomical lengths I am willing to go to appease my muses and fulfill my passion!…it’s necessary.

This image below, however, is definitely a rare catch. Not what you’re seeing, but the fact that I photo-documented it. It’s my last Fine Point Pilot Precise V7, blue. That’s actually a cause for mourning because it’s the kind of pen I use to do all of my story writing with–and they are hard to find unless I order them from Amazon or go to the black market or something (just kidding on that second part…although…) I am also mentioning this because I only JUST started using this pen about a week ago. That is the entirety of “Papercuts” and a chunk of “Cradled”. It’s a nice gauge of progress anyhow. There you go. Maybe the next image will be a little more thrilling.

PS: I caved to the tidal wave–“Staged” has begun.

Yep: Again

It’s just past six in the morning and I should be working on “Cradled” right now, but “Staged” (the most recent story idea to come to mind) is chewing right through my gray matter, trying to get out. It’s not a bad thing, except that I need to finish “Cradled” (and really, “Amateur” as well) before I start it. As it is, the energy of this one has taken such a hold that I can hardly think about anything else. Driving has been completely on autopilot to the point that I forgot my purse at work yesterday (which had my notebook in it, or else I would have left it until my return today) and had to drive back for it–two hours wasted on driving when I could have been finishing up “Cradled”. Thankfully, I still got “Papercuts” done last night. But “Staged”…

It has been a few months since I’ve had a muse so enrapturing that I have felt consumed by it/him/her. In this case, a him. The funny thing about this one is that it isn’t the person who initially prompted the idea in the first place, but the one who I actually got to speak with about the story. That whole idea of keeping the “I’m putting you in my story” to myself? Yeah, I totally blew that on Sunday evening when I actually garnered enough courage to open my mouth about it. For one of the very few times, it has had a fortunate outcome and no “weirdness” has resulted. Instead, I feel creatively bound to this person and, not only is he the real driving force to “Staged”, but he has also found a part in a book/screenplay I started a few years ago. I have a feeling that these two pieces of writing will not be the only ones he helps me breathe life into. I wish there was some way to repay people when they do this for me–so far, there isn’t. It’s a gift beyond anything else that exists. I’ve yet to experience anything that tops it–by tangible means or otherwise. The only thing that can begin to even come close to what it brings to me is being in love, and even that may be only a close second…I feel like I’m going to burst–like a new universe has just been created inside of me and it’s expanding with every new moment. Nothing else does that for me. I am so indebted right now that it’s almost painful. Almost.

It’s funny to me how other muses have come along and experiences have been similar. This time it has been–more. More what? I can’t say, but it’s intense. It is heartbreaking to think that I’ll probably never cross paths with this person again. Life is funny though. I can’t guarantee that I will never get to stand in his presence and revel in that, along with those fleeting seconds that carry it. I only know that if I ever do, it will probably change my world all over again. Indebted, indeed, and I’d have it no other way.

Another Word About One Of My Favorite Subjects: Muses

This never ceases to be a topic of intrigue and sometimes confusion. Muses are something different to every creator. For me, there are two kinds:

~Those which I cannot see and who whisper in my ear 24/7, telling me what to write.

~Those who influence my characters in face, form, voice, motion, and emotion.

My writing process cannot have one without the other–my stories don’t exist without both. The former almost always arrives first, and sometimes it takes a while for the latter to be revealed. I have absolutely no control in either case. If a character is going to look a certain way, I don’t choose him or her. I don’t know how that works–it’s clearly beyond me, and many times it’s a surprise, if not surprising. Take the main character for “Papercuts”, for instance–never in a million years would I have thought to cast a young Kevin Klein for the part, but there he is. Now and then his image wavers and Errol Flynn steps in, but that’s in quick and rare flashes.

I’m writing this post mostly because I have hit a strange situation and I’m not entirely sure how to handle it. I know how I would like to, but when real, easily approachable, but fleetingly accessible people are involved, I am fearful of treading the line that makes such muses uncomfortable. It’s a very fine line, and some people take offense to all kinds of stalking…I can assure those in question (should they be reading this….Cirque Italia-related such muses….) I mean it in the very safest and most flattering of ways.

That said: I need a photograph of two recently-met muses, for the sake of the illustration for the story they are in (it’s called “Staged”, by the way–The Doll Collection: Volume Two, unless I can somehow finish it in time to get into Volume one…I’m tempted, my darlings. So very tempted). I have tried to sketch this out–I’m not doing a very good job of it, as per the norm. Can I make do with it? Probably. Would a real photo be better for Felix to go on? Absolutely. Would I feel better about it? Without a doubt.

So the conundrum: Do I take advantage of their proximity while I have it, knowing that once they move on, we’ll probably never cross paths again? Or let it go…?

I know what I want, what the story needs. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do.

Brief Update of the Weird

The Doll Collection: Volume 1–There are now nine out of thirteen illustrations completed for this volume, so things are more or less on track. I have just a little more formatting to sort out for the interior, but otherwise, a release for October is still a go.

TDC: V2–While on my trip to MA, I got struck out of nowhere (well, when I came across a rather bizarre but stunning photograph) for a new TDC story. I figured it would go into a later volume since I already had so many stories in progress, but I ended up writing the entire twenty pages during my train rides. Since then, I’ve been working on the last four stories for this volume (which could be four out of the five that keep showing up under my pen). I’m pretty close to getting two of them done, though the ending for one of them is putting up a fight. I will keep going on it and see what wins.

TDC: V3 & 4–Also while in MA, I went to the toy museum in Wenham. They don’t have an extensive doll collection, though quite a few more than I remembered. I came out of there with three more story ideas, including one for a music box with dancing mice. This does put me into Volume 4 territory, which I’m extremely excited about. It will, however, keep postponing the completion of anything else. I think that, for now, it’s okay. There are certain elements that I would rather have direct life experience with in order to move forward with Darling Orphan in particular, and they are currently lacking. Someday, they will return.

I’m in the middle of another major purging of stuff. It’s, as ever, slow going, but terribly necessary. If only I could get away with less sleep! I think I could get more done that way in every area of life.

Thursday evening, I attended Paranormal Cirque (Cirque Italia) and that was an entertaining time. My only complaint is that there is no program–no cast list. Otherwise, a few creative sparks flew while watching it and enough are taking hold that it’s requiring a second viewing–which, for me, will be at 4:30 this afternoon. It seems silly in a way to go again, but at the same time, I feel that I should while I can. Also: it’s all in the name of creativity, and that makes the necessity of it dire. May I get everything I need from it today, because who knows when I’ll be able to see something like it again.

Last night, I revisited the Marionette Theatre and saw “The Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes”. Entertaining as always, but it was the fact that 1 marionette that had been lying over the back of a chair during my first visit, and 3 others that I had not seen before, were on display. That one on the chair, now in good viewing order, is the Arlecchino (named Pietro for TDC purposes) in “Revolution”, which will appear in TDC: V2. It was quite nice to see his big, blue eyes instead of having to imagine them. When I go back to do my 1st edit pass, I will be able to better describe him just as he is.

Back to the purging and organizing of things before I must get ready for this afternoon’s event!

The Doll Collections Update, Show Additions, and New Endeavors

Much to report from the past several weeks.

The Doll Collection: Volume One
All stories for this anthology have been completed and edited; five out of thirteen illustrations are finished and they are gorgeous!! I’m still shooting for an October release, but as I have no shows beyond October until February, there’s some flexibility. Some. I confess, I’m so excited to see this one completed that the sooner it’s done, the better. That’s just my selfish take on it!

The Doll Collection: Volume Two–
Currently, eight out of thirteen stories have complete first drafts. I have the other five stories in progress and am going to push to have them completed as well (and hopefully edited on my end!) before the fall semester begins. Having learned from the last two terms, once class is in session, writing grinds to a nauseating halt until winter break. As with TDC: V1, I’ve offered the commission of the artwork to Felix Eddy-McClain, and she (Thankfully!) said yes!

The Doll Collection: Volume Three
Yes: THREE. The story ideas have just continued to come, so I’m just going to continue writing them until they stop. I’ve moved one of the completed stories from TDC: V2 to V3, and beyond that, I have six out of thirteen story lines sketched up. Again, Felix will be decorating these stories with her incredible art. The honor is All mine.

Darling Orphan: The Case of Lucy Stewart–
It has been a painful draft to get through. While I’ve added less than ten pages since my last post, I’ve added bits here and there to the three books in this series that follow it. The story is still alive–just a bit dormant. Even though I would love to get this one done and move it off of my plate, this is at least giving me some time to find a new cover artist. I haven’t felt much like attempting it myself, so the search is still on.

Shows
Up next, I have the Steampunk Farmers Market in New Freedom, PA (8/25). In September, the Erie Comicon in Erie, PA (9/15-16) and Clocktoberfest in Columbia, PA (9/22). I believe that’s all until February 2019, when I will be returning to FarPoint in Hunt Valley, MD.

Other stuff–
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going to an open photo shoot themed Carnival of the Lost. I think about 6 photographers went around to different sets on at the location to take pictures of me (as well as some others who caught an image here and there). It was quite a lot of fun, even if my second costume came out horrible and was more reflective of my sewing skills 20 years ago, versus what I’m really capable of. That was disappointing, but hopefully it won’t show in the photographs. At some point, I will take it apart and reconstruct it properly. That’s what I get for a last minute attempt (and during a mercury retrograde, no less). I don’t have any other costume ideas at the moment, but here’s hoping that I’ll allow myself more than a few hours here and there over the course of a week and a half next time!

On Wednesday, I will be taking a train up to the North Shore area of Massachusetts. The good news is that the train up and back will mean about eight hours each way of writing time. The bad news is that I won’t have a car while I’m there and that will mean not being able to get to the Crane Estate or possibly even Long Hill–both places where I used to go and daydream and write my brains out. It will be nice to be able to get around to a few places by the commuter rail, and to walk around Salem again. I’ll attempt to get out to the Wenham teahouse and the toy museum across the street. I know they have at least a few dolls there, so that could help me with some of the remaining story lines I need for TDC: V3, though what I’m hoping for may need to come from stranger places. I will keep poking at what life offers and see what moves and speaks.

When It Rains, It Pours…Right out of the æther

I don’t usually write two blog posts in a day (or at least not for a while), but today turned out to be so much of a gem that I am compelled to make a return.

Firstly, the trip to the Gettysburg antiques flea market was so worth the drive! It only took me about an hour and change to go through the entire thing, but about thirty minutes in, I came across a vendor who had a terribly disheveled antique (late 1800’s) German doll: for FIVE DOLLARS. I really hadn’t wanted to get more after the one arrived last week from eBay (she’ll be enough of a restoration project!), but for Five Dollars?!?! I’ve seen many for sale at $100+ in worse condition, so I would have been a fool to leave her there. After I paid for her, the seller apologized because the doll’s eyes were stuck shut and haven’t opened for quite some time. I said I’d take a look at them once I got around to restoring her, though I did try to open them gently–they didn’t budge. I continued browsing. By the time I got to the car to return home…soooo, yeah–her eyes are blue. And open. I’m just going to chalk that up to the heat softening the paint on her “eyelids”. Not sure what has kept them closed up until the one hour mark after my owning her. She is yet without a name, but I’m sure that will change in no time at all.

Speaking of names: on my way to view a marionette production of “Treasure Island” this evening, I stopped to have a ham and brie crepe for dinner. I had originally planned on ice cream…but this was just down the street from where I parked and the theatre, so I figured why not? Lo and behold–the peculiar things that occur when I make such decisions! The gentleman who assisted me with my order IS the faceless, nameless character from Darling Orphan, in the flesh. I put him on the spot and asked his name–told him why I was asking–and asked if I could use it in my book. I’m not sure how he really felt about that but he seemed pleasantly amused. He has no idea how indebted I now am to him. I guess I should have mentioned that, at a minimum, he will show up in book 5 of The Case Files series. I honestly don’t doubt that he’ll turn up again in books 6-8 as well. It’s so Perfect. I couldn’t have planned that better had I tried!

Sometimes I absolutely adore the responsibility of being a vessel for all of these stories! It attracts all of the most interesting and lovely people.

Back to “Treasure Island”: an impressive performance, non-stop by one man at the end of many strings. Prior to anyone else showing up, I was let into the little museum and back stage to photograph at my leisure. There were many that caught my eye, but two in particular hanging over the workbench–they were facing each other and looked like they were kissing. I wanted to tell them, “Carry on–I won’t tell anyone”. Of course, they didn’t need my approval. And just like that, we’re up to six story lines for The Doll Collection: Volume 2. 

Unbelievable. Truly. How could life possibly get any better? I dare it to try.

Anthology Update, Plus One, and Two-Thirds

I am just under a week returned from my “vacation”. It was too short, really, to consider it as such, but I got out of my daily element, out of the area–out of my comfort zone.  A pretty good balance of good and bad on both of those. I turned over rocks and opened doors on my past and got everything I had expected (well, sort of), and though nothing is resolved, some of those are a little closer to being put to rest. This is really vague, I know. Just, please, go with it.

I have finished all editing for The Doll Collection: Volume One, and it has gone through one editor so far. Five stories left to get back from my second editor. Also, sketches have been done for 4 of the 5 commissioned stories. I believe my artist said she’d take the entire project. Once again, I’m over the moon about having her art in this book! So far what I’ve seen is just utterly beautiful!

I now have five new story ideas for The Doll Collection: Volume Two. I’m not at all surprised that these have continued to come. I think there would probably be even more if I wasn’t putting up some mental shields. I hate doing that, but five??? Already???? I have, since finishing Vol. 1, picked up Darling Orphan again and added a total of about 2 pages to it. Certainly not enough to get it finished (but closer). At a glance, the book is at least 2/3 done, so that is encouraging. I’ve had the tiniest of contact with Leo Pittman’s muse in the past 12 hours, so that may be of help. Muses have no idea how powerful or influential they are and can be! In some cases, that’s a good thing. In this case…. well. He sparked a boost to help me finish The Quad a few years ago, so perhaps if I let him… I think one little bit of hold up with finishing D.O. can be attributed to the muse of a new character–or lack thereof for said character. I can’t see this gentleman’s face and barely his movements, or hear his voice. That makes a difference in whether scenes can get written, especially when dialogue is involved. Lucy Stewart has a few interactions with him so it’s crucial to have these bits in place. There is a lot that will build off of those, even when he’s not present. It is one of the factors that is making Swiss cheese of this book right now.

I’m about a half hour from heading off to an antiques flea market in Gettysburg–if I don’t find inspiration for the above mentioned gentleman there, then I am confident that there will be some for TDC: V2. Either way, I’m writing, and that is bliss for my soul.

Quick Update On The Doll Collection

I’m taking a quick lunch break from working on the FINAL story for The Doll Collection–“Trystan”. This is one that has been inspired by one of the Morris Museum’s (Guinness Collection) automatons that I discovered in their viewable storage department a week ago today. I’m still waiting on pictures to work from, but in the meantime, the story is moving right along. If I do not finish it by the end of the day, then tomorrow for sure. “Mephistophelissa” was finished a few days ago!

In regards to the length of this volume of The Doll Collection–Yes, you read that right: THIS VOLUME!–there are 13 stories, but as I need to move on to getting Darling Orphan finished before the end of June, I feel I need to cap this volume with the completion of “Trystan”. Otherwise, and as I already have 2 more stories of this nature in the queue, The Doll Collection could easily just go on forever. It’s terribly exciting to have more ideas for it coming in such rapid succession, but I have some clearing of the docket to do. Besides, I think another volume will be nice to have. These stories have been hard-hitting emotionally, and I need to be sensitive to the fact that they may be so for the readers as well. I do want people to actually finish reading these stories, so smaller doses may be easier to take.

One last point about this project before I grab food and get back to writing: I’ve commissioned out the first 3 illustrations of the 13 it will have. Felix Eddy (who did the beautiful cover art for Lord Spencer: The Case of Matthew Sterling) is picking up at least these three. It is my hope that she will want to do all 13, as I adore her art and it’s such an honor to be working with her again! My excitement to see what she does for these is almost too much to bear!

At the moment, and now that the completion of the first draft is coming to a close, I’m projecting an October release for the book. Stay tuned!