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.

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!

Social Media Does Aspiring Writers Little In The Way Of Favors

(Posted this morning on my Facebook page)

Twitter has been notorious for memes and tweets about how “hard” and how much “work” writing a first draft of a book is.

Are you kidding me??? Maybe I’m doing it wrong then because that’s the sweetest cake walk I live! Sure, I have moments where the muses are stubborn and don’t want to talk, but with several dozen works in progress going at any given time, someone is always talking–I haven’t had the problem of not being able to come up with material to write for quite a while now. It certainly does not fall under the description of “work” or “hard”. So I totally do not understand these posted deterrents–and that is exactly what they sound like. Deterrents aimed at aspiring writers. It’s not a fucking club. Anyone with the passion to write should be encouraged to do so. They can decide as they navigate their path what is hard or what is work.

That said: being able to be patient to get through life’s other obligations until I can write again–That is hard. Being able to be satisfied enough with my manuscript while or after editing to let it move on to publication–That is work.

But first drafts? And even the first pass edit–those parts of the process are some of the most exciting moments of my life–that’s where the forgotten treasures are. If other authors want those stages to be hard or work, I am sorry for what they are missing out on.

Maybe it has to do with external expectations. I don’t make a living on my writing and I don’t care if I ever do–I get to write anything I want, whenever I want, on whatever book I want. Do you know how freeing that is?? It makes being true to myself in all aspects of life just a little easier, and it’s nice to be able to wake up every day and know that I can face that in peace. It has certainly taken long enough to arrive to this.

(Brought to you by the first chai latte I’ve had in several weeks.)

Time to go and PLAY! The final pages of “Trystan” are calling!

Post-AutomataCon and I’m Pretty Sure…

…that I am not the same person who walked through the doors of the Morris Museum yesterday at 10am!


As I warned via Facebook, I will need a few days to process what I’ve just come away with, not the least of which is two more stories for The Doll Collection. If I do not hurry up and get these two done, and get through the editing for the entire book–like, STAT!–this book may just go on and on and on…. Like I said in my last post here, I’m perfectly fine with doing a second volume, but I’ve got to have time to get this one going and off of my plate first! It will end with 13 stories (it Has to, or I’m seriously never going to get back to the books that people have recently been clamoring for! I’m not prepared for angry mobs!), and I’ll do my best to make sure I get the notes down on paper or in my computer so nothing gets forgotten. Seriously: this stuff is too good not to share! Just not yet.

What I can talk about are the amazing artists who were there at the show, demonstrating some of their brilliant work: Dug North, Brett King, Tom Haney, and Jim Casey, just to name a very few. I included the links (click on their names to get you started, if interested. The Morris Museum link is below) so you can see some of their work. I am lousy at taking pictures–so I didn’t–and to try and describe them would not do them justice. Please visit their sites! 

The lectures were incredibly helpful, as I went in knowing pretty much nothing about automata other than from an aesthetic and fantastical perspective. It’s safe to say that I now have quite a few more wrinkles in my brain. And also, I adore my gift for writing, but wish I were also more mathematically and mechanically gifted. Not in this lifetime, I guess.

While at the event, I also had the pleasure of speaking with Jere Ryder from the Morris Museum about two particular pieces that are in the viewable storage department. (I got a pretty good look at them, as a matter of fact–enough that I did and still do get chills from their images–and photos of both will be on their way to me soon, so I can incorporate them into these last two tales–see the last paragraph of this post for more on that.) I am incredibly grateful for Jere’s time and knowledge! And, it goes without saying, so insanely excited about what is going to come of such precious access! I am totally seeing stars over this–yes, it has hit me that hard!

Last writing news bits before I go and decompress and just revel in the mental fruits of this recent experience:

“Wanted” and “Babees” are finished. “Loyalty” is on hold for the second volume, and “Mephistophelissa” (story #12) is under way. The final piece that will go into The Doll Collection doesn’t yet have a title, but I’m sure that won’t be an issue once I get going on it–you know it never is.

All right–hold fast! I’ll be back soon with more…

Progress on the Anthology

Time has been flying and so have the words from the deep recesses of my brain. The semester officially ended for me last Saturday, and I have been working ever more on The Doll Collection. Since my last post, “Marioncide” and “Sisters” have been completed. I’m currently working on “Wanted” and expect to finish it up either tonight or tomorrow. That leaves just two more stories: “Babees” and “Loyalty”. That is, unless any new ideas pop up while I’m in the editing process or before this book is completed. I’m not opposed to doing a second volume, should more and more ideas present themselves, but as I said previously, I’m really eager to get back to Darling Orphan. Lots of loose ends needing tied up there. And also, again, As Fate needs a swift kick forward. Another illustration has arrived, so out of 8, I believe I now have half of them–and only 2 of the vignettes are completed. Well, eek! to that! I am grateful that things are holding steady though, and my muses are being kind enough to let me complete some projects before invading with new ideas. Though, book 6 for The Case Files is starting to edge in more and more. At least I can say that it’s a trickle there. My muse for Aya Hauke showed up in a dream this morning, however, and if he does that much more then I am going to find myself caught up in the thick of book 6 and without much choice in the matter. (Not a bad thing–just trying to really wrap up some old before getting into some new!)

AutomataCon is next weekend– !!!!! I’m starting to get a little on the ridiculous side with my excitement about that. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m just happy that I am so looking forward to it. It’s something totally new and I can’t even imagine what I will really see there–more so, what I will come away with! How does one prepare for that??? I suppose I should just be sure I really do have a good, clean notebook and several pens with me! And probably some cash.

Spring is blooming, and so are the stories

Since my last post a month ago, I finished “Fantasia”, “Ease”, “Storms”, and “Destiny”–all for The Doll Collection. I just started “Marioncide” this morning and am guessing it will be done in the next two weeks. I will have four more after that. I keep getting more ideas for additional stories–totally not a problem!–so there may be even more than the planned dozen at this point. I’m not sure when I’ll make it to the Philly Doll Museum, but am booked to attend AtomataCon next month, and the Harrisburg Doll Museum in early June. There is, of course, always potential for more inspiration for this project.

The semester is a week away from finishing and as far as that work goes, I just have 2 finals to do. This means time is opening up to write, and with the weather finally getting better, I expect that things may really start booming. Not that I’m in a hurry to get through The Doll Collection pieces, but I am a bit anxious to get back to Darling Orphan and finish it–it’s well overdue to be done and I need for it to be done.

I’d also like to get back to the As Fate vignettes, as the illustrations are slowly trickling in. They have been a challenge to write as all inspiration depends on my ability to attend the right sort of social functions. There haven’t been nearly enough of those for it, but that is also slowly on the climb, so more to come soon and with any luck.

There’s the bit of an update. I have about an hour to get something done on “Marioncide” before I head out to one of said social events.