Category Archives: Muse

Cooking Something Up

“Welcome to October at the writing cabin, and I’m here in the kitchen with my robot assistant, Miss Lisa Burton. Today we’re baking up a batch of Macabre Macaroni.

“Now, I’ve already boiled up the pasta and put it in a colander to drain. Lisa, can you pass me the butter to grease our casserole dish?”

“Hang on, I’m still getting my costume on. It takes time to be a fashion plate you know?”

“What seems to be the holdup?”

“I’m trying to get these stitches right. Can you pass me the purple marker? They ought to bruise a bit around the edges.”

“I, um, I can’t find it. Is it one of the ones in your left hand?”

“Oh yeah. I didn’t think I’d used it already. It’s important to look scary for Halloween.”

“Yeah, um. Scary wasn’t my first thought here.”

“Well, I’m not finished yet either. Just go cook your stuff and I’ll join you in a minute.”

***

Lisa Burton

It’s October, and that means Macabre Macaroni. These are my name for bits of micro-fiction with a Halloween theme. I run this every year, and I hope you enjoy them. They’ll post every Tuesday this month. I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.

Note: I posted Lisa’s poster at full size here. Some people collect them and this is the one to download. I’ll size it down for the weekly stories.

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A small update

I sat at my desk and did some blog chores. I scheduled a post for a guest, assembled and scheduled another interview, and responded to an additional inquiry.

I got up and carried my iPad to the paranormal office, turned the skeleton key, and went down three steps onto the cold stone floor. The gargoyle in the corner looked like an old friend. I placed my hat on its head, crossed the pentagram inlayed into the floor, and rolled open the top on Patty Hall’s old desk.

There are already a couple of micro fiction pieces on my disk, so I reviewed those. They aren’t great, but they have the bones of something better. One of them has a bit of a science fiction thing going for it, but that’s okay for Halloween.

Still, they could be better. They could always be better. I needed at least a couple more ideas to pull off Macabre Macaroni this year.

Lisa came in wearing her full pirate regalia. “There you are, matey. I thought you were in your office.”

“This is my office too, technically.”

“True. I just got a text from Lorelei. She’s going to be stopping by.”

“If there were ever a time for the Muse to show up, it’s this weekend. Why are you still wearing your pirate gear?”

“We both know it’s just a matter of time before you decide to start editing. Doubt the raven has been hyperactive lately. He knows it’s coming too.”

“Sometimes I wish Lorelei had given me a different animal. One that means cash and lots of it. Some kind of golden goose or something. Don’t they have those on Olympus?”

Lorelei swung around the doorframe. She wore a blue summer dress, and her brunette hair spread clear to her shoulders. “Are we feeling a little overworked today?”

“Yeah, in some ways. I have lots to do, and I don’t seem to be getting everything accomplished.”

“Is that a new perm?” Lisa asked.

“Yes. You like it?”

I leaned back in my chair so they could get all the girl talk out of their systems. I may have emitted a small sigh.

“Okay, look. I know you have tons of ideas,” Lorelei said. “I’m no slacker in that department. What seems to be the problem?” She moved to the couch and patted the seat beside her.

I sat beside her, but stayed rigid. She leaned into my side. The sandalwood she always wore was intoxicating.

“I don’t have a bunch of great ideas at micro length. I have at least three that will work at novel length, and two that might make good novellas, but need about three that will work for Macabre Macaroni. Then I need to–”

She placed a perfectly manicured finger to my lips. “You’re just out of practice. Take stock for a minute. You’ve done your blog chores. You have a couple of micros, and maybe the raven can help you with them. Something will come to you. It always does.”

“I’m supposed to be reading, editing, and spending some quality time with BookBub too. When am I supposed to do all that?”

“You have four days. Pace yourself and it will all get finished.” She leaned in and kissed my cheek. “It doesn’t matter what you work on. You’re working and things are forging ahead. Now, I’m going to catch up with Lisa and leave you to it.”

I went back to the desk and stared at a blank page for a few seconds, but not before watching her walk away. Then I wrote out a story about a cell phone app that seemed to fit the coming season. To be honest, I like it better than the two I already have. A Muse is a wonderful thing. She doesn’t have to say a word, and the ideas just show up.

I checked my calendar, and I need two more by the middle of October. There really is time for everything. Sometimes I get angry with myself when I think I should have gotten more accomplished.

I’ll earmark some specific time for BookBub after I call my parents tomorrow. That will be my priority. If there is time remaining, I’ll go back over the micros I have and see if I can make them better. Then I may actually open one of those books I’ve been promising to read. Monday will be for whatever’s left. Maybe I can get the next interview settled.

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A great day for piracy

Lisa met me at the top of the stairs. She had those knee high boots that turn over at the top, and her Captain Barbosa hat on. “What are we working on today, mate?”

“Well, figured to read my last chapter, then move the story ahead as much as possible.”

“Sounds like a plan, but I need you outside first.”

I followed her across the deck, then out to the field before she turned around. A black skull and crossbones flag flew over the writing cabin. “I love it, where’d you get it.”

“I made it, silly. I have a lot of time to myself out here, and did it for you. The logs on the cabin almost look like an old ship, if you use your imagination.”

“It’s perfect for this story. Guess I’d better get started.”

“Not so fast, matey.” She spun me around to face a line of logs she’d placed vertically in the meadow. Each of them held one block of ice. She handed me a flintlock pistol and stepped back.

“Really, for me?”

“You need to have the experience.”

I cocked the hammer, took careful aim, and missed the target. Sulfurous black smoke drifted across my field of vision.

She traded me for a fresh pistol, and started reloading the one I just fired. “Better hurry, they get smaller out in the sun.”

I repeated my motions, but this time the ice exploded into a million pieces. “Hey! Look at that.”

“Very nice, now the next one.” She handed me the freshly charged pistol. “You have two more coming at you.”

We repeated the exercise until all the ice disappeared. “Thanks for doing this. It helps to remember these aren’t semi automatic pistols that can be fired over and over with ease. Pirates would have to save their shot, or take cover to reload.” I handed the pistol back. “Guess I’d better get started.”

“Not so fast.” She pulled two cutlasses from the grass and tossed one my way. “Defend yourself.”

I blocked her strike and stepped back.

“Come on, you’ll never learn if you don’t try.”

“These things are dangerous.”

“I’m a sophisticated high-tech robot. I’m not going to hurt you.” She thrust at me, and I batted her blade away to the side.

“But I’m not. What if I mess up and hurt you?”

“Please. Class three battle chassis inside. You’d need armor piercing ammo to get through, and more firepower than that sword.”

I picked up my pace and returned the fight. We clashed all across the meadow, up and down the steps on the deck, and out onto the airstrip.

I took a step back and held my blade up with both hands in a halt position.

“What’s wrong now?”

“I’m tired.”

“You’re old and fat. This is where you get run through.”

“Besides, I don’t have a cool hat.”

“The hat has nothing to do with it. It’s all about skill, stamina, and experience.”

“I’d like to experience some iced tea about now.”

“I can make some.”

“And some air conditioning would be nice too.”

“Fine. Wimp.”

“It was fun though. Loved the pistols.”

“Gotta admit, that seems more your style.”

We headed inside and Lisa brought tea to my office. I took a sip, and placed the cold glass to my forehead. “I’m surprised you didn’t have cannons for us to fire.”

“I called Red Herring, but they’re all rented out. Seems like all the authors want cannons this weekend.”

“You didn’t really. Did you?”

“I know you don’t like the guy, but he has all the story elements you ever need. Besides, buying one would give you a stroke. Rental is the only way to go.”

I opened my iPad and started writing. Lisa piped some quiet pirate themed music through the building.

By the time I finished for the day, I’d written nearly five thousand new words. We captured a ship, got disappointed in the treasure. Experienced a monster of the deep, and witnessed what can only be described as carrot abuse.

I introduced one new character called Stuttering Lewis. Lest this sound like character soup, it’s fourteen chapters in, so you get one here and there. I’ll have a few more along the way, but they’re mostly color and background now. I can’t write a book and call them pirate #1 and pirate #2.

We also unfurled a new flag, but I won’t describe it because it’s kind of spoilerish.

It feels like an end to Act One. That arguably could have been an earlier section, but I don’t mind being a little vague on that part. Acts are more like guidelines anyway. (Sounds good for a pirate story.)

I’ve struggled over the last couple of books to hit a decent word count. This one is not going to have that problem. It may be the rare story where I have to cut things to make it digestible for readers.

Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend, or will if you didn’t score friday off. I still need to work up some interview pieces, but it’s hard not to keep sailing this ship forward.

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2017, from a robot’s perspective

Lisa Burton here today. It seems 2017 took some offense to Craig’s last post and his furnace went out. The same one he’s still making payments on. He’s kind of busy right now, so I decided to cover for him.

My job involves being Craig’s personal assistant, and serving as his spokesmodel. This takes me to some awesome places, and I get to wear some fun outfits along the way. I also get to keep the swag from the posters I’m in. You can bet I’m wearing that awesome fur as I put this together. (Craig still hasn’t discovered the bomb hanging from a hoist in the basement.) Anyway, I’m not the writer here so I decided to post a photo collage of the year I had. Hope you enjoy.

There’s also some fun stuff on the calendar for 2018. Hope you guys will stick around.

Lisa Burton

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“Digging in” for a new project

Company left early this morning. I had a quiet cup of coffee with no distractions. I didn’t even check email or anything else, just soaked up the calm. Sunrise here was beautiful, and I snapped a photo. It might not be creative, but would make a nice background for December. Then I opened my iPad and hacked out another one of the interviews and sent it out.

I arrived at the writing cabin in the late morning. Lisa wore one of her traditional pinup style outfits. She followed me into my office.

“Are you ready for this?” I asked.

“Not really, I mean, yes. Everything is physically ready, I just think it’s a bad idea.”

“It’ll be fun. We sequester ourselves inside the bunker for three months, just like the characters in Estivation will. That will really help me get the setting right, and the mood it has on them.” I headed out to the circular door atop the culvert in the front yard.

Lisa went first. “I’ll give you the tour.” At the bottom of the ladder, she threw a switch for the power. A tube of concrete and corrugated metal sprung to life around her. She led me into a concrete pod that served as living room, kitchen, and general gathering place. Different culverts led off the great room and served as bedrooms, a walk-in freezer, bath, and pantry.

“You did a great job on this. After the weekend I’ve had, some peace and quiet is just what I need. Is Bunny already down here?”

“Not yet. I mean, what are you going to do with the raven, Doubt?”

“Maybe I can open the window and give him free rein.”

“I hate to tell you this, but Idaho winters can be brutal. Leaving a window open for three months will be a disaster for your cabin.”

“Oh, come on. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“There is adventure, and then there’s common sense. I have things to do. I still have to work with Sean Harrington to make posters for The Hat. You want to get that published don’t you?”

“Sure, but this place has great wifi. Maybe you can use a video connection to work with him.”

Lisa Burton

“Look, I’m not staying in a smelly culvert for three months, just to hustle you coffee. I’m not missing Christmas either. The confinement will drive you crazy, and I don’t want to deal with that.”

“It won’t drive me crazy. I thrive on peace and quiet.”

“It will in three months. Check your outline and what you intend for that nice young couple. You can come down here and write all you want, but you need to air out once in a while.”

“It won’t turn out quite the same, you know.”

“If you lock yourself down here, it won’t turn out at all. You’ll be chewing on your iPad and drooling in two weeks.” She opened the refrigerator. “I bought a growler of the last pumpkin beer. Write for a couple of hours, then I’ll bring down the enchanted beer horns. You’ll get plenty of stress and strain from this industrial style furniture. I know you hate it.”

“I really do hate it, but pumpkin beer sounds good.” I opened my iPad and sat in my bent-pipe style desk chair. “Seal the door behind you. Wouldn’t want any snow to get in.”

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A Doubt filled weekend

Doubt

Yesterday involved a bunch of problems, sponsored by WordPress and Apple.

Apple’s iOS had a bug that hit some users, but not others. It forces a symbol replacement for a capital I when you type. I googled how to fix it, and they suggested a kind of macro that tells the computer when you type “I” what you really mean for it to do is type friggin “I”. It didn’t work.

A different website promised a repair was coming soon from Apple, so I checked. The update was already available, and fixed everything.

The second issue came from WordPress. It seems they’ve driven away all the decent blogging apps, and I’ve been using the actual WordPress app. One of the good things about it was the way it handled pictures. That all changed.

I used to be able to size, move, and tag photos. Today that’s all limited. For instance, if I tell it to move the raven to the left, that’s no problem. However; now it will no longer allow me to type beside it. The image insists upon taking up the entire area. That’s why the photo is centered above on today’s post.

I used to have two options for tagging images, but today I only have one. I can schedule the post, then edit it inside WordPress, but it worked well two days ago.

The other thing it’s doing now is randomly changing the pitch of my type. All is well if I just keep going, but if I go back to make a correction, all the future words want to be in some kind of micro-text. I have to delete my last good letter, then retype from there to get it right.

None of the WordPress issues are major, but it worked fine a couple of days ago. They need to address this, and while they’re at it,would it be too much to ask if I wanted to actually center some text, and change the pitch of my letters inside the app? As an example, I will add a section break below this paragraph. I will have to left justify it, post it, then edit it inside the WordPress Admin function to make it look right.

***

I went to the writing cabin around nine o’clock this morning. I spent yesterday working through The Hat and some suggestions I received. It really is looking good right now.

I plucked the hat from my desk and dropped him on my head. He was configured as a grey fedora, his preferred look. I opened the window, and gestured outside to Doubt, the raven. “I don’t think we need you for this one.”

It was an odd feeling. I have doubts about all my stories, but this time I feel great about one.

The hat said, “Go catch mice or something. Craig and I got this covered.”

Doubt glared at us like we brought his daughter home late.

“Go on, buddy. We don’t need you. In fact, Craig and I are ready to publish,” the hat said.

“Well, not exactly. Lisa is still with Sean Harrington, and we need her promotional posters. We may not have those until the end of the year.”

“So, what are we supposed to work on today?”

“I received feedback on The Yak Guy Project from a dear friend. I thought we might work our way through that.”

“What’s that got to do with the old hat?”

“Nothing really. I thought you might like to read over my shoulder. Lisa isn’t here, and maybe you have some suggestions.”

“You’re probably smart to come to me. Besides, I wasn’t doin’ anything anyway.”

I turned on my computer, and sat up an iPad beside it for the redline copy of my book.

“So, that Internet has the corrections, and the other Internet has the actual book? Is that the deal?” The hat asked.

“They’re two different devices, but they work on the Internet.”

“That’s what I said.”

“It’s, well it’s like… Yeah, we can check the suggestions on one, and make any changes on the other one.”

“Sounds like a good plan.”

I scrolled down the redline to the first suggestion.

“Slow down. Still reading here,” the hat said.

“Sorry.” I pondered the first suggestion and looked across the room.

Doubt lowered his head into what I call his classic vulture pose. “Kaaaaw, ha, ha, ha.”

“Oh, shit! Why couldn’t you just leave while I felt good about The Hat”

“Kaaw.”

“Hey, Yak Guy is kind of a dork. I gotta tell you, Lizzie has her shit together a lot more than this guy,” the hat said.

“Yeah, they’re different stories. In The Hat, Lizzie is supposed to be a go-getter who needs a bit of direction–”

“Your’s truly.”

“Exactly. Yak Guy needs a major overhaul in his life. Where you are more of Lizzie’s partner, Yak Guy needs a mentor.”

“Man I feel sorry for that guy.”

“He’s a yak.”

“How can a yak be a mentor?”

“How can a hat be a partner?”

“Touché. I’ll just go with it.”

“Thank you.”

***

Between the evil glances and croaking of Doubt, and trying to explain everything to the hat, it was a long day. The book, The Hat, is nearly ready to go. I’m expecting to hear from one more reader, and need some artwork.

The Yak Guy Project keeps waffling from deleting it entirely, making it into a trunk novel, self publishing it, or submitting it to an actual publisher. I kind of need to narrow the distance between those bookends somehow. This weekend is in the books, so I don’t have to decide anything today. I need to get on with it though.

How about some covers. Everyone loves covers, right?

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Now what?

I got to the writing cabin late today. Old What’s Her Face had to work and the dogs let me sleep in. Since this never happens, I took full advantage.

Lisa Burton sat in the front office drinking a bottle of peroxide.

“Stop! What are you doing? Don’t you know that stuff’s poisonous?”

“Really, after all this time you don’t understand the robot part of robot-girl?”

“Then why?”

“I’ve been out stumping for Quantum Wanderlust. The hosts usually have tea or some kind of special snacks. I eat it to be polite, but my holding tank needs cleaned on occasion.” She stepped from behind her desk wearing yet another new knee length dress; black with white polka dots. She proceeded to cartwheel across the office floor.

I turned away as her dress flipped up. “Stop! Nobody wants to see that.”

“Marilyn Monroe made a statement when her dress blew up.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Would you be more comfortable if I jumped up and down instead?”

“No, I don’t think that would make me comfortable at all.” I wrapped my hand around my beard. “Tell you what. I’m going to my office and you can do whatever you need to do – out here.”

“Fine. I can’t go around smelling like I have halitosis.”

I stomped off to my office and got started. Today was singularly unproductive to be honest. I pulled up my collection of storyboards and all of them need some work. I intend to write another novella next, but want to dive deep into another novel right on its heels. Neither storyboard is ready for prime time.

Storyboarding is my way of outlining. I always write faster with a good outline/storyboard. This means I need some solid daydreaming time. I may have to turn off the radio during my commutes, because that usually attracts the Muse. I have some great ideas, some fun vignettes, even some good characters, but no story yet. At least not ones I’m content with.

I feel bad about it, because I’ve only put out The Enhanced League this year. Enhanced League did great for about two weeks then flatlined. Yak Guy is close to ready, but I want to try something different with it. Here I am facing October, usually my best month of the year, with nothing new to promote. I’m going to push some of the older stuff, and I might come up with something for the baseball playoffs. Maybe I should have started on The Hat sooner and gotten it ready for an October release. Fact is, I didn’t so there’s no use dwelling on it.

My mind is in a weird place too. I got another great review for Panama today, and Quantum Wanderlust is starting to get a few reviews. Sales are kind of dismal though. There are so many free and 99¢ titles available I don’t know what else to try to get readers. It isn’t really about the money, but it would be nice to cover the expenses in putting the books out.

I never actually step away, but this is as close as I’m going to get. I need some time with my thoughts, but those thoughts are going to be about my storyboards so I can keep writing stories. I will try to come up with something that resembles a plot and character arc for the storyboards I have. This may take a few days or it may take a few weeks. No telling.

While that’s going on, I have a list of short stories I could dabble at. It never hurts to have a few of those in the bank, and they could lead to a future Experimental Notebook.

Regrouping for me. Do any of you ever get to this phase? I never see other authors talking about it.

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