Category Archives: Muse

Nothing like a long drive

I woke up at five o’clock on Sunday. By visiting my parents, I missed out on a visit from my daughter. Old What’s Her Face said if I got on the road by seven, our daughter would stick around Boise and cut my hair. It felt kind of abusive of her time, but I wanted to see her.

The drive started before sunrise, and I enjoyed the dawning across the high desert. This is something I used to see every day, but took for granted.

By the time I reached Lone Mountain Station, there she was. It’s still winter, so she wore a bulky sweater, tights and knee high boots. Her shock of long brown hair moved slightly in the breeze. She watched two vehicles drive by, then stuck out her thumb as I approached.

I eased into the parking lot, then rolled down the window. “What brings you all the way out here, Lorelei? Kind of lonely territory for a Muse.”

“You.”

I watched, mesmerized by her tights, as she walked around to the passenger side, then climbed inside.

“I just wanted to check in. See how your writing is going.”

“It’s been kind of slow. There were a couple of good days, but I got bogged down in the muddy middle for a while.”

“That’s familiar territory for you. Still, I know you’ve added to your storyboards. It seems like you are well primed for your next few tales.”

“Yeah, listen to this.” I turned up the music.

As she listened, I kept talking. “It’s just too obscure for Lizzie and the Pythons to play at one of their gigs.”

“Maybe when they make the movie you can include it as background music.”

“Yeah. That would be great. Since Netflix doesn’t seem to be calling, about all I can do with it is enjoy it.”

“Have you thought about making a character based around this theme?”

“That’s a great idea. He could take a supporting role for one of Lizzie’s adventures. But, I have storyboards that will take years to write out.”

“Hang onto him. He might fit on an existing board, or maybe he needs a new story.”

“Gives me something to think about.”

“That what a Muse does.”

“Of course, Good Liniment is next for that series. Then there’s The Midnight Rambler, and I have one with some gremlins, maybe one about St. Vitus’ Dance, and I’m toying with one that will take Lizzie to the Kentucky Derby.”

“How did you come up with that?”

“The hat, of course. He would hate to be one of those fancy women’s hats. I can get some comedic mileage out of that.”

“That’s a paragraph. You’re going to need a bit more.”

“Okay, Good Liniment will expand the witchcraft world. Readers asked for that, but I wanted Lizzie to evolve into her position for a few tales. There are going to be a bunch of new characters in that story. One of which is a horse lover in the form of the headless horseman. I figure he can be the herald to walk Lizzie into some problem with the horses. Weird enough for one of my tales?”

“It’s certainly weird, but so are you.”

“Thanks, I think. I don’t think I can get her there with a Barnstable Brown performance, or even Phillies and Lillies. Lizzie and the Pythons aren’t big enough for those events. I might have to invent some dive bar in the area for them to perform at.”

“Then invent one. Sounds like it’s going to take a couple of years before you write it. I’m sure something will come to you. Start a storyboard, and remember you only have about two years to complete it.”

I signaled to exit the freeway at Meridian. “What I really need is some help with Lanternfish.”

“Sorry, this is where I get out.”

“Oh, come on!”

“Anywhere near that strip mall is fine. I’ve seen your board. Lanternfish will be fine. You just need to sift through the parts until the pieces are in position for the end game. Since this is a trilogy, make sure you bring some closure to more than just James and Serang.”

“But, you could really help me.”

She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Of course I could, but your creativity feeds me. Not the other way around. The next time you make a long drive, maybe play something other than your Lizzie and the hat playlist.”

“But, it’s such good music.”

“It really is. Sounds like that series will survive for a long time. You gained a new character out of our visit. Be happy with that.”

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Lorelei Comes for a Visit

My company left at around 10:30 this morning. I haven’t honestly had a writing day since before Christmas and was looking forward to some quality time.

I arrived at the writing cabin and got ready to work. My robotic personal assistant, Lisa Burton dropped off some coffee, then waited for instructions. She wore boots and leggings and an oversized sweatshirt with a wide collar, exposing one bare shoulder.

“I need to read what I have before I get started. It’s been so long I can’t decide whether to pick up the Lanternfish story or the one about the hat.”

“If you need anything, just yell. I’ll be in the front seeing if there are any online bargains today.”

I had started reading Lunar Boogie when Lisa returned. “You have a visitor.”

Just what I needed on the first quality day in weeks.

Lorelei, the Muse, stepped around Lisa and into my writing office. She was as tall as Lisa, but less curvy. Beautiful in a Greek goddess kind of way. “What’s this I read about you toning things down in 2021?”

I held my palms forward in a gesture of peace. “That was about my publishing schedule. I want to satisfy the fans and get some series books out there. After that, who knows what I might do.”

“That’s where I have a problem. Your act of creation fuels me. I let you take some time off last summer, but it can’t become a habit. In fact, you haven’t been behind the keyboard since mid-December.”

“Calm down. There’s a difference between publishing and writing.”

“I’m listening.” She moved to the recliner in the corner and sat down.

Lisa took a place on the couch in case there were assignments.

“I intend to publish those two books, but will keep writing. I have several storyboards and am kind of missing my stand-alone stories.”

“That doesn’t sound like a plan. Maybe you just need some inspiration.”

“That’s as good as you’re getting right now.”

“Did you know the laws of salvage are nothing like people think? They’re actually about how a good samaritan deserves compensation.”

“Seems like a quick change in topic, and one of your tricks to me.”

“If someone were to rescue or preserve something, could be goods, or even part of a ship, they receive a lien against those items. The owner has to make good on the lien before claiming the goods.”

“So, it’s not just finders keepers?”

“Not at all. In fact, you could be charged with theft by keeping the items.”

“What if there’s nobody left alive to claim the items?”

“The country of origin can also participate. Spain will occasionally make a claim when someone discovers a sunken treasure ship.”

“That’s a maritime system, and I don’t see it working in the Lanternfish plot.”

“Just because something is on your property doesn’t make it yours, either. Otherwise, whenever someone walked in here you could claim everything they have.”

“That’s right, so pull that top off and hand it to me.”

“Ha ha. Nice try.”

“So, you’re telling me that if an alien ship crashed on my ranch, I can’t claim the wreckage. I can render a service and claim compensation, but can’t keep what I find.”

“Seems about right.”

“But the country, or planet of origin, could make a claim in our Earth courts.”

“In theory, yes.”

“I think if it were me, I’d take as many pictures as possible. Save them to a thumb-drive to protect them from government deletion, then share the photos with every news service and social media format I could find. The government couldn’t cover it up then.”

“Might make you a fugitive.”

“Almost certainly. If I filed my claim right away, there would also be a court record. That’s a bit safer place for the evidence.”

Lisa leaned forward. “The aliens probably wouldn’t go to court. You might gain possession by default, given enough time.”

“If only it weren’t for the damned Feds. They’ll try to take everything and claim it was a weather balloon. They won’t get away with it, because I have photographic evidence and good filings in the court. Once something is in the court record, they aren’t going to cough it up.”

“Looks to me like even losing possession of the wreckage, you’re poised to make yourself a celebrity speaker and go down in history as bringing the existence of aliens to the general public,” Lisa said.

“I’d need a place to hide for a while. I’m sure the Air Force or FBI would want to haul me in. It would have to be off the grid someplace.”

“You’d be dodging those guys for months.”

Lorelei stood, then dusted her palms together. “I think I’m finished here. Good to see you both again.”

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “You played me, but it won’t work. I have my own storyboards to jump on.”

“Looks like my little scheme failed. I’ll let you get back to your writing. Have a happy new year.”

“You, too,” Lisa said.

I watched Lorelei walk down the hall until she turned into the living room that served as the front office. “Did you keep any notes?”

“Your robot girl is on the job.” Lisa polished her nails on her sweatshirt. “I have a video recording of the entire meeting.”

“Why don’t you reduce the video to notes. I’ll get set up for storyboarding, and we can work on it together.”

“That sounds fun.”

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Got a bit more accomplished

I arrived at the writing cabin in the pre-dawn hour.

Lisa let me in, and she was already in her seasonal outfit. Today she was a gingerbread girl complete with some kind of white piping sewn around the hem of her miniskirt. Candy cane striped thigh-high stockings ended just shy of her dress. “Wow! Two days in a row? It’s almost like old times.”

“Almost. I have to cut it short today, but don’t want to squander the hours I have.”

“Then you’d better get started.” She got behind me and pushed me toward the writing office.

I intended to get the ship underway, but still had a couple of loose ends to wrap up in Tusconi. I took care of those and managed to make sail before I stopped.

It only came to about 800 words today, but like I noted, there were limited hours available. The good news is that Lanternfish is finally underway.

Lisa looked over my shoulder. “I think it’s good stuff. A tearful departure and a thought toward loved ones.” She placed a little square gingerbread robot on the table before me. “Don’t run away. I baked these myself from a recipe on the Internet.”

I took a hesitant bite. “Mmm. These are good.”

“Whew! I’ve never tried anything like this before.”

“Why a robot?”

“Because robots are underrepresented in the Christmas lore. We’re starting a new tradition here. If my sculpting skills were better I would have tried some robot girls, like me.”

“Well, I think they’re delicious. You can work on it, and I’ll come back tomorrow. No writing, just a Christmas visit.”

“And my Christmas bonus? These gingerbread shoes aren’t cheap, you know?”

“Yeah. I’ll bring that, too.”

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Back in action

I got to the writing cabin fairly early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door wearing a green and white mini-dress with matching elf cap. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here from time to time, remember?”

“I though you were getting a refrigerator delivered today.”

“That’s tomorrow. Rather than squander a whole weekend, I decided I’d better accomplish something today.”

“And which project is it going to be?”

“Huh? Don’t worry about changing clothes. I like the festive look.”

“Oh, good. I was just about to use the hot glue gun to put tiny bells on these pumps.” She held up a pair of metallic green heels.

“Sounds like a plan. I’m going to launch Lanternfish if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Okay. I have to make your coffee, then I’ll bring you a cup. You might hear me jingling as I come down the hall.”

“I hope so. 2020 has been kind of a gloomy year and any little bit of cheer is welcome.” I marched to the writing office and could see my breath in the air. Lisa had already provided kindling and wood, so I made a fire in the fireplace before I got started.

I opened my chapter by sliding Lanternfish from dry dock into the water. It takes some time to outfit a ship this size and I needed to respect that. I used the time to define some relationships, mostly between James and Bonnie. They are always parted on these journeys, and that’s pretty realistic for the era. I decided to spend some time with them as a couple.

I also spent some time reintroducing a few other characters. The overall trilogy seems to have a cast of thousands, and I can’t expect readers to remember all of them. Since it’s still early, a line or two seems more helpful than not.

Lisa jangled into my office with coffee. Somewhere along the line she’d managed to accessorize with an enameled bracelet and necklace of holly leaves and berries.

“Where’d you get those?” I pointed to her wrist.

“Cute, huh? I found them on EBay for a steal. As a bonus, Bunny likes to chew up the boxes.”

“You’re a little tall for an elf, but your heart’s in the right place.”

She leaned in close. “I don’t have a heart. There is a hydroponic layer to keep my skin healthy.”

“I know that. It’s a figure of speech. Means you have the right spirit.”

“Thanks. You type away. I’m going to go do my nails. There are boards of Christmas nails all over Pinterest.”

“Have a good time.”

I pecked away at my project, and ended at 3200 words for the day. I like this chapter, but there’s nary a cannonade in sight. Plenty of time for fantasy sea monsters and naval warfare after they leave the harbor.

I also like the way that Serang has been up to her neck in warfare in the preceding chapters. I think it adds a sense of urgency that readers can pick up on, even though the Lanternfish crew has no idea.

Tonight is all about packing all our food into the tiny freezer and a group of old coolers. Hopefully, getting the new one delivered and installed won’t be an all day affair, but my experience with such things hasn’t been good. If this is all I manage to write, so be it.

In other news, I worked through all my critiques for the other story. My group really didn’t like my title, so I changed it. The book about Lizzie and the hat is now called Lunar Boogie. Probably jump to that one next go round.

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Writing along

I looked up from my desk at the writing cabin and decided to call it a day.

Lisa Burton walked into the office in full pirate regalia. “How did it work out? Did you have a good day?”

“It really was. 2700 words I didn’t have before. Add that to the 2000 from Wednesday and things are cooking along.”

“There’s a little coffee left before you leave. Do you want it?”

“Sure. I got through my con men on Wednesday and closed the loop on three concurrent stories. Everyone is on the page now. Today, James did what he had to as far as completing the repairs on Lanternfish. She’ll be ready to launch soon.”

“Don’t you think I’d look great in period costume breaking a magnum of champagne over her prow?”

“I’m sure you would.”

“Maybe you should write that one down.”

“It’s early in the story. There could be better things coming.”

“Then you don’t have to use it, but if you write it down you won’t forget.”

“You’re a computer. You remember for me.”

“You can bet I will. So, did the queen go along with James’s scheme?”

“Shh, that’s a spoiler. You can check out the draft later.”

“What are you planning tomorrow?”

“Don’t know. Serang still has some war to wage, but she ought to gather some clues along the way. I need her to discover some old secrets, too. I might wing some of that, or take a little time to think it through.”

“You mean you’d just waste a day to think?”

“Sure. This whole country could use more thinking before writing.”

Lisa smirked. “Uh huh?”

“If it doesn’t want to come together, I can always revisit Lizzie and the hat.”

“I kind of hate it when you do this to me. I never know how to dress for the day. Am I wearing cute performance outfits or being a pirate girl?”

“How about badass monster hunter outfits?”

“I know your style. It’s too soon for those, After about ten chapters you’ll get to them. So how should I dress tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. I have to go where the Muse leads me.”

“Fine. I’m going to put on some jeans and cowboy boots, add a Smithereens tee-shirt and fashion beret, then pull the Waltus armor on over the top. Maybe I’ll even buckle on a cutlass for good measure.”

“Do it and I’ll post a picture on my blog.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Of course I would.” I pointed to my head. “You don’t understand how this brain works.”

“From what I can tell, your processor runs on coffee, pumpkin beer, cheese, and crackers.”

“Actually, that’s pretty accurate. All I can tell you is that I intend to write tomorrow. If it’s Lanternfish, it’s Serang’s turn again. If not, then I’ll start the next Hat book.”

“Maybe I’ll just wear one of my polka dot dresses and some nice heels. Those make me happy.”

“There you go. I like those, too.”

“Enough to write me into another book?”

“Probably, but I’m not going to. You got a story just last year. I’m going to try revisiting Serang and see how that goes. That’s as much commitment as I can give you.”

“I’ll take it.”

“So, do we have some cheese and crackers?”

Yeah. And some dry salami. I’ll get you set up.”

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It’s been too long

I got to the writing cabin relatively early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door. She wore a tight knee-length khaki dress and a matching envelope cap.

“What’s with the outfit,” I asked.

“Veteran’s Day is next on the calendar. Things are still kind of boring out there, so I try to celebrate everything at home. You haven’t been out here in a while. What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing special. Just trying to keep the boredom away. I’ve been doing some storyboarding and looking for graphics. I have a lot of cool poster ideas for you as I write the next few books.”

“I’d love to go over your ideas. Maybe I can get some outfits ordered.”

I headed toward my office and turned on the lights. Lisa had placed sheets over everything, so I pulled them away and piled them in the corner. “Problem is that all the cool ideas are several books away from the ones I’m writing next. Things will have to come to me as I write those.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Maybe I can help.”

I walked down the hall to the paranormal office and threw the switch. A spark and hum revealed the same slip covers over all the furniture.

I thought as I pulled them all back. “I might be able to use that garrison cap in a story. Hang on to it.”

“For the hat?” she asked.

“Yeah, why not. I have a mission in a future story that will require him to be flat. Lizzie might come up with a performance outfit using it, too.”

“That seems worthy. I’ll keep it within easy reach. What are you working on today?”

“Nothing in particular, but I’m getting close.”

Lisa pushed me back to the main office and my desk chair. She moved the iPad in front of me. “I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe just relax and enjoy a fresh cup. See where it takes you.”

I sipped my coffee, then opened a new folder, created a blank document. A little copy and paste, and I’d created a title page and copyright data. I wrote one sentence, then another.

I knew in broad strokes what has to happen, but didn’t really plan a way to execute that. I worked on some dialog and it led toward the planned event. Might as well execute the plan and see what happens.

I dabbled, and backspaced my way along, not really expecting much. When I glanced down at the bottom of my document I’d written 3000 words. My jaw fell open.

Lisa had her own cup of coffee. She held it toward me. “Take all you can…”

I clinked her cup. “Give nothing back.”

Lisa snapped an open palm salute. “I I I I.”

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Vacation and the Muse

I went over the next chapter of Mrs. Molony before sending it out to my critique group. I admit it was a little rough, but the hours are dwindling on my vacation. Back to the real world tomorrow.

A whiff of sandalwood caught my attention. I got up from my desk and followed it like a bloodhound. Lorelei, the Muse waited in the main office.

“Where is your little assistant? Don’t tell me I’ve missed her.”

“Lisa is with Sean Harrington, making art.” I gave her a quick glance from her high heels, past her designer jeans, to the top of her long curly hair. “Haven’t seen you around here, lately.”

“You committed to series work, and I didn’t feel like you needed me. As long as you’re being creative, sometimes it’s better to get out of your way.”

“Well, I could use you now. I looked over my old storyboards and don’t have a lot to add. Then I tried to start boards for the final Lanternfish story, and the next Hat tale. It isn’t looking too good.”

She pulled me into a hug. “Aww. You’ve been on a break for a little over a week. Maybe you should give it more time.”

I fumbled a bit before speaking. She is a minor goddess, and pretty fit to boot. “Yeah, but you’d think all my ideas would fill a board.”

“I snooped. You have plenty of things for Lanternfish. The Hat series tends to be shorter. I think you’re going to be fine.”

“I need turning points for Lanternfish. There’s some cool stuff, but I haven’t been able to fit it into three-act structure. I haven’t even come up with things for many of the crew to be involved in. So far it’s just James and Serang, with a bit of the Palumbos. I need things for the other characters, particularly the root monsters. I need ways to hide any big cons that might be happening.”

“It’s only been a week. Relax. Things will come to you. You may find yourself inspired after I leave today. That’s kind of how Muses work.”

“And what’s with all the ideas for The Hat? I have more ideas than I can write in several years. Don’t want it to grow stale for readers. I’m trying to write one per year. I have two years worth of storyboards, and a solid idea for one after those.”

“Don’t be such a baby. I know you like those characters, and you enjoy writing their adventures. I may have visited your dreams a few times, but they are solid ideas.”

“That seems kind of invasive. Maybe I wanted to see you.”

“Maybe you wanted to look at me. There’s a difference. You’ve been extremely busy, and it feels like solid work. Enjoy your break. Add to the storyboards as interesting things occur to you.”

I paused, looking at her wasn’t exactly horrifying. She looked every inch the Greek Goddess, even in modern clothing. “At least there is an end in sight for Lanternfish.”

“It’s your first series, and it will be your first complete series. You should be proud of that. Then you’ll have room for your stand-alone books.”

“It would be nice to spend some time on those. I have one storyboard that’s three years old.”

“You will. Give yourself a few months. I’m sure you’ll start the Lanternfish book before the year ends. Try to enjoy yourself.” She swirled her wrist, and a crystal goblet appeared in her hand. “Aren’t you going to offer me a drink?”

I grabbed my beard and thought. “We’re all stocked up on cheap boxed wine. Lizzie St. Laurent seems to thrive on the stuff. Either that or one of her Monster energy drinks.”

“Let’s brave the wine. Maybe you ought to stock some better supplies out here.”

“Like I said, Lisa is working away from home today and I’m a little short.”

“There are delivery services in your modern world. Phone something in, and I expect a little better stock the next time I appear.”

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Living in the moment

I put the pro in procrastinate today. It was a perfect writing day for me, because Old What’s Her Face had to work. I spent my time on reading blogs, social media, chatting with friends. Eventually, I decided to work on something.

I got to the writing cabin late, with four projects looming. I need to make edits to Lanternfish, send out the next section to my critique group, brush up my short story, and possibly add new words to Mrs. Molony.

Head down, I hacked away at the chapter I needed to edit, but something didn’t feel right. I wandered through the cabin. “Lisa. Lisa?”

“Back here.” I found her working on the flowerbeds outside.

“We need to go to town. I have to tip over a statue.”

“What on Earth for?”

“It’s a living in the moment thing. This is all over the news and social media. I want to be able to tell my grandkids that I participated. Maybe some of this can weave its way into one of my stories.”

“You flew out here. It’s several hours back by road.”

“Then we’d better get started.”

“You can ride in my sidecar, or we have the old Land Rover from our storyboarding safaris.”

“Let’s take the Land Rover.”

It took her an hour to get ready and fuel up the car. Several decent mud holes, a couple of snowdrifts, and we finally reached Boise.

“This is your shindig. Where to?” Lisa rolled down her window.

“There’s a perfectly good statue of Lincoln in the park. We can start there.”

Lisa’s eyes flickered as her internal works paired with the cellular network. “That’s bronze. You won’t even be able to budge it.”

“You have that industrial robot strength. I’m sure together we can get Abe on his head somehow.”

“Oh, no. This is your deal. I’ll drive you, because you pay the bills. Any vandalism is all on you.”

“Party pooper.”

She signaled then pulled in by Zoo Boise. I hit the ground running as soon as she found a parking spot. I grunted while trying to shove the bronze onto the grass. Finally, I crawled up on his pedestal and tried again. Abe didn’t budge.

“Well?” she asked.

I strained with all my might, then clutched my side. “I think I pulled something.”

“Can we go now?”

“I’m not giving up.” I looked both ways, then jogged across the street to the community rose garden where I kicked over their garden gnome. I dusted off my hands while strutting back to the car. “How about that?”

“Fabulous. I need to swing by the nursery on the way back. We need some plant food.”

She drove down State Street then parked at the nursery. “Coming in?”

I stared at the flock of plastic flamingoes in their lawn. “No. I’m good right here.”

Lisa walked inside and I waited until she was out of sight. This was my moment. I attacked the flamingoes with fury. I managed to kick six of them over when the management came running.

Not wanting to deal with The Man, I dove in the Land Rover, then sped away.

I went around the block, then called Lisa’s internal cellular number. She didn’t answer. Finally, I dropped the Rover into gear and headed home. Lisa is pretty resourceful, and I’m sure she’ll find her way back.

Lisa Burton

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Back to the writing cabin

I got a decent start this morning, and didn’t take time to look at any social media. There is a particular section of the book I wanted to complete.

Lisa met me in the kitchen in her pirate garb, then followed me to the office. “Are you going to include the adventure with Waltus, or not?”

I’ve been toying with this section for a long time. It goes in, it gets cut, it goes back in, etc. The main issue boils down to a lot of making ready, setting sail, and traveling. The arctic is a fascinating place, but the interesting bits are few and far between. I know, I’ve been there.

I didn’t want it to be unrealistic, but have to keep the modern fiction reader in mind. I decided to include a bit of crush/romance because people on a ship are still people. Then I added Waltus back into the story.

People seem to love the root monsters, and their tales kind of reflect the truth, but aren’t documentaries either. Instead of living through the adventure, I had James come across the aftermath and ask what the hell happened. Flattop isn’t maybe as animated as the other monsters, but he did a good job filling his captain in about the attack by Waltus on the ships.

This all played out against a stark icy landscape that posed an obstacle to getting the ships where they need to go. I included some wandering around on the sea ice, and eventually found a laborious way to move all three ships. I stopped after moving the first one, but I have two more to go. I’ll likely shorten those parts up, because readers will have already seen that action.

It was 12:30 when I looked up. “Okay, Waltus is back in. I should probably work on my next Story Empire post.”

“I want to read it,” Lisa said.

“You’ll have to wait until I leave. I need to start researching my next post.”

“Killjoy.” The WiFi went down.

“What happened? I need to look up some data about the Guardian Archetype.”

“I turned it off.”

“Don’t be a brat. You can read Lanternfish after I leave. I need the Internet so I can get my next post ready.”

“Nope, I’m the Threshold Guardian. You can’t complete your task without appeasing me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t believe you… oh. I get it. Now turn the WiFi back on so I can rough out this post.”

Lisa smirked, then spun on her heels and left. The WiFi came back on, and I managed to rough out my post, and even found a decent graphic for it.

Old What’s Her Face and I have a combined errand trip this afternoon, and I might even get the post scheduled before the evening is over. It came to well over 3000 words of new fiction, but I didn’t keep an exact count again.

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A writing day

I got to the writing cabin late this morning. It felt good to not have the alarm clock dictating my day for a change. Lisa Burton was nowhere to be seen.

There was hot coffee in the kitchen, so I helped myself, before heading to my office.

Lisa’s voice came over the intercom. “What’s it going to be today? Lizzie and the hat, or a little bit of piracy?”

I picked up my pirate hat and pulled it on. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to wear the right outfit.”

I turned on my iPad, then took a seat. “I’m thinking Lanternfish today.”

“Thanks, I’ll be right there.”

I dedicated a lot of words to adjusting to a fleet of three ships. Serang’s ship still needs some things, and those had to be created. I ended that section with a pennant for her to fly and by painting the name Kirin across the rear of her ship.

This is a neat callback to her origin tale, but the language has changed. Quilin is the name from her country, but Kirin is the name from Giapon. The appearance of this magical creature always marks great change in her life. (His appearances are more symbolic than an actual animal showing up.)

Then I moved back to Lanternfish. Mule is still working on the knife he found in Giapon, and it’s going to play a larger role later in the story. He’s also trying to hide his animalistic ear from Yoshiko, who was the girl presented to James as a concubine.

Lisa showed up in her pirate gear. “Reporting for duty.”

Lisa Burton

“Cute, but you may want to put on more clothes. They’re sailing through arctic waters right now.”

“That’s bogus. Do you know how hard it is to get deliveries right now? I’ll button my vest, but I can’t get any new clothes for weeks.”

“We’ve all had to adapt.”

She looked over my shoulder. “You need to end Mule’s suffering. He obviously likes that girl, but he’s ashamed of his ancestry.”

“James isn’t going to have a clue. What do you suggest?”

“Have one of your con men tip him off. They’re supposed to be great observers.”

“Oh yeah. Then he can act like a father and try to make things right.”

Lisa left me to my own devices, so I moved the ship further into the arctic, added some tiny bits of arctic wildlife, and an encounter with the Northern Lights. The root monsters wanted to know if Saint Elbow was coming back.

James convinced them that it’s Saint Elmo, and the Northern Lights are different.

I ended my day by sailing them directly into a wall of ice that blocks the passage. The last discussion was to sail around or wait for summer.

Lisa brought in a plate with a sandwich.

“Bologna? Really?”

“I’m having a hard time getting things right now. It’s bologna or nothing.”

“I like bologna. This won’t last forever, then we can get a variety of food and you can buy more clothes.”

***

It all sounds a little slow, but the delays can work to my advantage. While they’re trying to get there, the war rages on. I need the situation different so James has to adapt on the fly. I think that’s better than knowing where all the advantages are and trying to turn the tide.

I’m going to add in a monster encounter, probably tomorrow. Lanternfish has plenty of monsters and it’s been a while since one showed up. This one is going to be more like a gigantic version of something that already exists, but I may change it up a bit as I write it.

This will also provide an opportunity for the root monsters to tell the tale, because they were largely left out during the section in Giapon. I know everyone likes the root monsters, so I want to keep including them.

Right now, I have the obstacle, a supply stop, then the war. I hope to wrap it up in the traditional second book style of total disaster with a glimmer of hope. That will allow me to exploit that glimmer of hope into the third book in the trilogy.

It came to about 3500 words today. If I can write my monster encounter, then clear this obstacle, I might have enough for my critique group by tomorrow night.

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