Tag Archives: Lorelei

A visit with Lorelei

I got up fairly early this morning. No particular reason today, I guess I was done sleeping.

The dogs needed to wait an extra minute while I opened a new bag of food for them. Typical morning chores, dogs, coffee, then it was time to start checking social media.

That’s when the faintest whiff of sandalwood caught my attention. I stifled a smile, but didn’t do it very well. It’s a signature scent, and can only mean one thing.

The slow clack of high heels is a sound that always makes me focus, and it was coming across my hard surface flooring. Lorelei, and she looked like an image from a magazine. She wore jeans that looked like they were painted on, with a loose fitting summer top. Then there was that huge shock of brunette hair, one befitting a minor goddess.

“What brings the Muse out today?” I asked.

“I’ve been meaning to stop by, but since you’ve been writing a little. I decided to leave you alone. When I spoke with Lisa, she said you haven’t visited the writing cabin in weeks. Your creativity feeds me, you know that. I’m feeling a little neglected.”

“Don’t be like that. I’m editing, no thanks to your damned raven. I’ve been arranging artwork, and scheduling things around publication. I even got a chance to read a couple of books.”

“That’s all lovely, but you need to keep writing. I’ve told you before, publishing is your choice. I only care that you create.”

“And I’ve told you, it would be nice to cover expenses. Book covers and promotional art costs more than I make on some books. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be sending me ideas?”

“What about all those characters you’ve parked on the island? Those were some wonderful characters, and maybe it’s time to tell their stories. There is that couple from Colonial Africa, the cops in the science fiction piece, several others.”

“I don’t know, geez. Summer is a time for more than writing. Besides, getting everything ready to publish is almost a full time job. Then I have to come up with blog tour posts, get the artwork, contact my street team…”

“Yes. You’ve already whined about that. You should try to keep focus. I think you’re a wonderful writer, or I wouldn’t waste my time with you. But… writers have to write.”

“I’ll think about it. Maybe something fun will come to me.”

“That’s all I ask. Maybe one of those storyboards you’re always talking about. Those seem to lead to a test chapter or two.”

“I’ll try. I have all day today and tomorrow.”

“There’s a good writer.” She turned and walked away, wiggling her fingers over her shoulder. “I I I I.”

“What was that you said?”

“I said, goodbye.”

“Oh, yeah. Thanks for stopping by.”

“What about you? Do you have any ideas?”

“Na, mate. Ya gotta come up with this stuff on your own.”

“Well, that was singularly unhelpful.”

“I’m just a prop, mate. But I have faith in you. I feel like you’re on the verge of one o’ them epiphanies.”

“Big words for such a little head.”

“Dun gotta get personal about it. I’m trying to help here.”

“Sorry. Maybe a ghost story or something will make her happy. I feel like I’m close, but don’t quite have it.”

“I got faith in ya, and so does the lady. Maybe that keyboard thing will put some wind in your sails.”

“You’re probably right.”

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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 bit more writing

I got to the writing cabin early. Lisa* was her usual chipper self again. She'd monitored my gyrocopter and had coffee ready before I arrived.

She had on a huge sweater over some Cheshire Cat tights and her hair was up in a bun. “Did you get a lot done Friday?”

“Yeah, it was a pretty good writing day. It felt good to get back to it. How's Lorelei*”

“She feels better about herself too. She may have pushed it too far though. Sometimes people forget that I don't get tired. As long as my battery is charged, I can keep going.”

I left her to obsessively count out individual pellets of food for her pet rabbit Bunny, and went to my office.

I added some things to The Yak Guy Project, but it led me to another transition scene. This was a short one, and I powered through it. I know what happens next, it's on one of my index cards, but I need to decide exactly how to structure it.

Instead of forcing it, I decided to check out The Enhanced League. It takes a minute to switch from first person point of view to third person. Like all my writing efforts, I started out by reading back a few pages. It worked out, and I managed to finish that short story.

I knew the next one was coming for months, but I'm still not ready for it. It's going to be a tale of drug abuse and requires some research. I even have the research material bookmarked, but I never got that far. I'm going to make up my own drugs for this one, but still want to get that grounding in reality.

It looks like Lorelei may have overdone it, and perhaps I did too. I probably didn't get a third of what I managed on Friday, but I'm content.

* There are a lot of new followers again, so this footnote is for you. Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot. Lorelei is my Muse; like actual classic Greek Muse. She let herself go a bit over the summer and fall, and now we're both getting back into the swing of things.

***

In other news, I hacked out my next post for Story Empire. I'm not up for a couple of weeks, but since these are supposed to be writing and publishing tips, it's nice to have time to pick at it. I have a tough time holding myself out as an expert, but I can fake it if you give me enough time. This post will be about writing suspense into your stories, and it's something I really enjoy both from a writing and a reading standpoint. I guess that lets me count those words too.

In other other news, date night last night involved Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. This is a wonderful movie. I heard some folks are disappointed because it doesn't involve Harry Potter personally. It never intended to, and it does well on its own. I'm glad that Eddie Redmayne didn't try to do too much with the character. He's not one of my favorite actors, but he did a good job here.

I wondered why Rowling decided to place this story in the 1920s. There is mention of Dumbledore as a teacher at Hogwarts, so getting him to the 2000's would make him pretty ancient. It occurred to me that I placed Will O' the Wisp in the 1970s, partially to eliminate the internet and cellphones from the story. Cameras everywhere could be a problem in the Fantastic Beasts storyline and would have to be addressed somehow.

In other other other news, a small plane crashed in my original hometown. It was far away from my parents, brother, in-laws, cousins, etc. Still four people died, and it was a life-flight plane transporting a heart patient to Salt Lake City. Mom said she heard the crash, but thought something fell in the house and decided to look in the morning. It was a miracle that it landed in a parking lot and not an apartment complex. I'm going to call Mom & Dad in after this posts, and may learn more.

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That was a little bit different.

Getting any amount of writing done with Otto around is going to be a challenge. It starts out with, “Look at my pumpkin ball.” Then I get out of bed. “Throw my pumpkin ball, squeak my plush moose toy, check out my kong, I have a piece of fluff in my mouth Smack smack smack, you'd better get it before I swallow it. I want out, I want in, oh wait… out again.” Recycle and repeat as necessary.

I bought myself a few minutes by filling his kong with peanut butter. That wasn't distracting at all, “Slurp, smack, slurp…” It was kind of funny, so I posted a tiny video on the Entertaining Stories Facebook page.

I managed to get to the writing cabin later than I liked. Lisa, my robotic assistant, was dressed like an old Olivia Newton John video.

“Are you working out today?” I asked.

“Lorelei is coming over. She wants to exercise, so I looked up what to wear and ordered this outfit. What do you think?”

“Yeah, very cute.”

“Thanks.”

I moved into my office and turned on my iPad. All I really needed was some solitude. Lorelei, my Muse, stormed in wearing some kind of hideous mumu thing. I may have winced a little bit.

“Where is she?” Lorelei asked.

“I don't know, maybe in the front or the kitchen.”

She turned to go, but looked back. “Don't even look at it. I'll be back to Greek Goddess form in no time. Give me a month or so.”

I admit to not writing much over the past few months. Lorelei let herself go in that time. Between a cranky Muse and a robot who's contemplating the afterlife, it's been a little strange around here. It seems like I'm going to have to force my way through this first bout of writing.

I opened up The Yak Guy Project, and re-re-read my last chapter. I wound up correcting some of the language. There is a character that sounds too much like another character, and I'm trying to adjust him a bit.

The next chapter is a transition chapter, and some traveling is involved. I hate those kind because they slog along. It isn't like the characters can pop in and out of interesting situations, and some of these are necessary. I added some scenery and intrigue to my world building and charged forward.

The girls came downstairs, this time Lorelei was in a bodysuit over a leotard. Quite frankly, it looked like it was a little bit stressed. “We decided to go jogging,” Lisa said.

Thank the Gods, I thought.

“You're welcome,” Lorelei said.

They were laughing as they headed away from the cabin. I opened the window for the raven of Doubt. “You too. Get out of here, and lay off Lisa. She doesn't need your mumbo jumbo any more than I do.” To my surprise, he flew off.

Yak Guy Ted got involved with a minor skirmish and saw what happens in war. He even went on a stressful mission of his own that seems to have helped the situation for his people. Remember, he's a spoiled city kid who's been plunked in another world, so this is a big step for him. He just needed the right inspiration. (Spoiler: It's a girl.)

I reached the end of that chapter, and added a first line to the next one. This is the point where I usually force something if I'm really feeling it. I admit to being a little out of writing shape myself. Still, 3100 words of new material isn't a bad day.

I decided to turn to baseball. More specifically, my short stories that I'm calling The Enhanced League. I left a couple of spies in a stadium in Japan that needed to move their story ahead. This one has a little to do with world building, and will have a bit of tension in it too. By the time the girls returned, I added 1500 words to that.

That was about my limit today. As I'm typing this out, I'm alternating words with throwing the ball for Otto. I won't complain about it, because I forged ahead with new fiction. In fact, this post is slightly over 700 words itself.

  • 3100+
  • 1500+
  • 700=

Pretty nice, or at least nothing to sneeze at.

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Shifting Gears, again

With the end of October, and my first day off in November, I found myself out at the writing cabin once more.

Lisa Burton, my robotic assistant, had on her skull jeans but this time they were tucked into some knee-high black boots. That's as good a sign of the changing seasons as any.

“Are you tired of your Morticia dress now?” I asked.

“No. I love the dress, but I'm not in love with the straight hair. I think I like my curls more than I thought. Besides, Macabre Macaroni is over and it's time to move on.”

“Yeah, my promotions are over too. There is an extended blog tour, but I have very little to do with that now. It will run without me, other than checking comments.”

Lisa went about her chores, dropped off some coffee for me, and I dug into an advanced reading copy of a great novel a friend provided.” I made it through four chapters when Lisa interrupted. “Lorelei is here and she wants to see you.”

“She knows where my office is. Tell her – ” I yelled down the hall, “Come on back, Lorelei.”

Lorelei wore dirty sweats and her hair was a mess. Her feet were tucked into a pair of old slipper socks. This is the beautiful Greek Muse who inspired so many wonderful ideas. The classic beauty who enjoyed being looked at.

“Um, hi… That's a new look for–“

“Go ahead and say it. I'm fat!” She collapsed onto the sofa in my office. Lisa sat beside her and hugged her while casting me a concerned look.

“What's new in your life? It's been a while since you visited us.”

“Nothing's new. You've been out promoting since September. Lisa went on her tour for the second Experimental Notebook. Even your Macabre Macaroni stories were written months ago.”

“Look, I've been writing, I swear.” I opened the app on my iPad and turned it toward her. “See, these are the short stories about The Enhanced League.”

“Oh sure.” She wiped a tear away. “I can still inspire a decent bit of micro-fiction. Maybe a short story on a good day. I get tired even thinking about novels.”

“I intend to get back to the Yak Guy this month. It's languishing at about forty-two thousand words. It needs another fifty-K or so to be finished.”

“I'm sure you'll come up with something. At least you have your outline to go off of.”

“Sure, I have an outline, but the story drifted back in Act one. I need you to get me through it.”

Lorelei wiped her eyes and sat a little straighter. “You do? I mean, that's more than a short story, but since it's already started I might manage it. It's going to require a bit of working out, maybe some fruits and vegetables along with all the ambrosia I've been drinking.”

“Yeah, it's going to take an effort on my part too. I haven't looked at it since the first promotions back in September. I need to read it, check the outline, and get back to work. It's going to be different than guest blogging, working on short stories, and all that.”

Lisa said, “Sounds like things are going to get lively around here.”

“I have a list of short stories, and I can't promise they won't get some keyboard time too. Is that alright?”

“Of course,” Lorelei said. “I sent them to you.”

“You sent me some bigger ideas. I don't know if I can make them into novels though. I made notes, but they might only make it to novella length. Is that okay?”

“I don't know. I just want you to be creative. You have to decide if there's a market for them or not. Let's work through The Yak Guy Project. If you get it finished, maybe I can figure out how to make them longer.”

“I think they have merit. I like the one about a story from the monster's point of view. I just don't know if it should be a tragedy or have some kind of heroic ending to it. I also like the one about the couple who have to live underground for three months to avoid the parasitic sun.”

“Parasitic sun?”

“Yeah, that's what I decided to call it. A gas giant planet ignited. It's much larger than the planet with people, but dwarfed by the real sun. That way it only becomes a problem when the two pass each other in orbit. It's like two suns for a short period of time. I even came up with a title, Estivation.”

“I like it. I'll work on them both, but let's get Yak Guy finished first.”

“I'd better make some time to read through it again.”

Lisa took Lorelei's hand. “You'll be back in goddess shape in no time. In fact, let's give Craig some space so he can read. I'll do your nails, it will make you feel better, I promise. Maybe we'll look at your hair too, if that's okay.”

***

There you have it. Looks like I have some work ahead of me, but it's fun work. There could be some word metrics this month.

*For all the new followers, Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot. Lorelei is my Muse, like actual classic Greek Muse.

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Wednesday efforts, robots, sirens, the works

I wanted to make it out to the writing cabin once more before going on vacation. The puppy saw to it that I got a good early start.

I found Lisa doing her nails in the front office. “What are you doing? I told you I was coming today.”

“I expected you later. I have a show to do tomorrow, and need to look my best.”

“It's a radio show.”

“I don't care. I do my best work when I feel confident. What's our plan today?”

“No plan, really. It's summertime, and I only want to keep the projects moving forward. I'll grab coffee and be in my office.”

I struggled with ideas for Halloween themed stories. For some reason, my Muse (Lorelei) hasn't been sending me much stuff along those lines. I finally gave up and started making a pass through The Yak Guy Project. I haven't done much with it, and wanted to get back in the swing. I need to completely rewrite one character to avoid him resembling the other characters. Anyway, my idea was to study the previous characters.

This story is based loosely around The Fool's Journey, from the major arcana of the tarot deck. The character I want to repair is the heirophont character. Yak Guy Ted (the fool) meets a lot of mentors along his journey. I have too many of them sounding like Miyagi.

It's probably poor planning, because at 50,000 words, there was no way I was going to get completely through it today. Then there was the idea of going on vacation for ten days.

I surrendered and went back to short stories. I wrote two of them. Word count came in at about 2700. They are too big to call micro-fiction, but too short for my determination of a short story at 5000. Whatever, I wrote 2700 new words, and one of them might deserve to be a little bit longer.

These are stories for my baseball project, called The Enhanced League. This is proving to be a challenge, because there is a lot of world building going on. Each story is supposed to stand alone, but support a longer book of short stories. This means my normal twist endings don't apply in every story. Like I said, a challenge. Actually writing them helps me with the clarity.

Does anyone out there still enjoy a tale with gobs of world building? They used to be pretty popular.

I looked up and stroked my beard. “Lisa, do you know where Wiki is hanging out these days?”

Lisa came into my office all in a flurry. “Don't even think about it. You remember how mad Lorelei got when you hung out with the Sirens.”

“It isn't like Lorelei's been around a lot lately. Probably hanging out at some Olympic beach party, or getting ready to go to the actual Olympics. Now answer my question.”

Lisa's eyelids fluttered ever so slightly as she checked the tracking data. “Wiki is hanging out at a coffee shop about thirty miles away.”

“Is she alone? She's more dangerous with her sisters.”

“She's alone, for now.”

“Pull the old Land Rover around. You can provide security.”

***

We found little hipster Wiki in the coffee shop hiding behind a huge mug and her iPad mini. She wore a long tee-shirt with a skull pattern over black leggings, with army boots. She had a cluster of colored string friendship bracelets on one arm, and two watches on the other. I have to admit, she looked adorable, but all of the Sirens do.

Wiki jumped up and squealed. “Hi you guys. What brings you here?”

“We're looking for you,” I said.

Lisa simply crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and said, “Wiki.”

I turned to Lisa, “Are the others nearby?”

“No.”

“Wiki, I want to do some baseball research. Stuff like bullpen carts, city populations, pitch velocity, left handed catchers, all kinds of stuff.”

“Easy- peasy.” She typed on her iPad and showed me an image of the Mr. Met bullpen cart. “This kind of stuff?”

“Exactly that kind of stuff. When did they quit using them?”

Wiki made a few more keyboard strokes. “Looks like the last one was a Harley Davidson with sidecar, in 1995.” She made a few more keystrokes. “Check out this kitty on one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners.” She wrinkled her nose in that adorable way she has.

Lisa slipped her hand inside her purse and stepped forward. “I don't think so.”

“Can't blame a girl for trying,” Wiki said.

I grabbed a large Americano while Lisa stood guard. Wiki found me stuff on PEDs, ways to throw the curveball, how domed stadiums can move the grass outside for natural sunlight, and much more. I thanked her, and she hugged me with Lisa looking on like a prison guard.

We left, and I waited until we pulled away from the curb, before asking Lisa, “Is your gun in that purse?”

“Yup, sure is. The Research Sirens are supposed to trap you in an endless research loop. They wreck careers on the cliffs of cute kitty videos.”

“But she's only one.”

“Right, but she's a Siren and knows how to flirt with you. Thank God I captured Libraria's and Consultia's cellphone data when they came to the cabin. Now I can track them. All three of them could be deadly.”

“You aren't going to tell Lorelei, are you?”

“Heck no. We're friends and all, but you're my employer. This is like confidential business data.”

***

There are several new followers at Entertaining Stories. This tale involves quite a few recurring characters, and it's easier to explain this way than with a simple asterisk and footnote.

Lorelei is an actual Greek Muse who sends me an endless stream of ideas. They aren't always what I'm looking for, and a Halloween idea or two would be appreciated.

Wiki is one of the Research Sirens. She is the youngest, and more internet based than her sisters. The sirens are dangerous, but one at a time they aren't quite so bad.

Libraria and Consultia are the other Research Sirens, and you can guess what their individual focus is. They are mentioned, but do not appear in this story.

Lisa is my robotic personal assistant, and the official spokesmodel for my writing career. For more of Lisa, come back tomorrow for another episode of Lisa Burton Radio. Apparently, she'll have cute nails, but I have no idea how you'll see them over the radio.

Special aside: Lisa is always looking for more characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio. If you'd like one of your characters to appear, drop me a note.

***

The Enhanced League is going to be science fiction of the near future variety. It has no deadline and will be a collection of short stories and micro-fiction. I wrote one about the umpires, and another one called Banned in Salt Lake City today. SLC is known for doing this on occasion, most famously with Olivia Newton John's song, Physical. The stories need some work, but they exist now.

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A writing lesson, Craig style

Lisa* the robot girl and I sat in the front office at the cabin. I pecked away at The Yak Guy Project for about thirty minutes. Part of my story involves a gradual movement from the guy’s familiar environment to one that is a bit more Asian. This requires a little more world building. I suppose it’s because the yak screams Asia to me.

“What kind of world building should I do to make it real for the readers?”

Lisa said, “I suppose clothing and style might help. Maybe some mannerisms.”

“I don’t know, clothing is always your thing. It kind of feels like low hanging fruit at this point. What about silk?”

A knock came at the door. Lisa spread her hands to indicate she wasn’t expecting anyone as she walked to the door. When she opened it, three beautiful women barged into the writing cabin and headed for me.

A blonde in a tailored skirt-suit spoke first. Her hair was in a tight bun. She lowered her glasses and looked over the top, revealing her perfectly arched brow. “I’m Libraria, these are my sisters Consultia and Wiki.”

Consultia had light black skin, a spiral perm so huge it sagged at the ends. She wore a shiny black top with a collar so wide it hung off one shoulder, and was dangerously close to falling completely off. She paired it with a black and white skirt and a pair of those low-topped, high-heeled boots. Her smile could serve as a beacon to lift anyone’s spirits.

Wiki had a denim skirt with black tights underneath. She paired that with tennis shoes, and an Abercrombie tee-shirt that showed off her athletic physique. She wore red hair, straight from the bottle. It had an A-line cut and layers that gave her a Sonic the Hedgehog look. She wore a cluster of string friendship bracelets on one wrist, and a necklace that amounted to a gold plated thumb drive.

Libraria opened a book bag and pulled out an old leather covered book. She slid it slowly across the desk with her perfect French-tips. As she slid it she leaned over farther and farther. I saw all the way to her navel between two perfectly tanned breasts. “This is the complete history of the Silk Road. It’s fascinating stuff, and will give your story a deep sense of reality.”

Wiki tapped away at her iPad-mini with her home-painted nails in alternating black and white. She turned the iPad toward me. “Look at this video. These cute little silkworms are munching away at fresh mulberry leaves.” She wrinkled her nose and smiled. Mesmerizing.

Consultia walked around the desk and sat beside me. She had some of the longest legs I’ve ever seen. From her position on the desk, and my position in the chair, we were close to having a Sharon Stone moment. “Did you know the Chinese kept the secret of silk away from the rest of the world for centuries? A person could be executed for smuggling out silkworm eggs.” She grabbed my hand and placed it on her top. “Feel this, it’s 100% pure silk. Nice huh?”

I managed something like, “Uh-huh,” right before Consultia sat in my lap.

Libraria said, “The cultivation of silk worms is called, sericulture. It’s been going on for thousands of years.”

Wiki said, “Here is a documentary about sericulture you should watch. And look at these beautiful Chinese dresses.”

Consultia reached for the iPad. “I love the cherry blossoms against the sky blue background. I think I could pull this off. Do they have one that’s a little shorter, or with a split for my leg?”

Wiki wrinkled her nose again and smiled. “You could totally pull that off. Let me check for other styles.”

Consultia ran her fingers through my hair. “Do you think I could pull that look off?”

“Oh yeah.”

She pulled my head to her chest and hugged me. “You’re so sweet.”

Libraria touched a nail to her collar bone and slowly slid it down over her breast. “The Silk Road began at the Pacific Coast and went over the Himalayas.” She kept moving downward. “It wound up in the fertile Mediterranean area.”

I think my jaw must have popped open somewhere around Nepal, because Consultia eased it shut.

Wiki said, “Look at these silk paintings about sericulture. Isn’t it cool that it’s a painting about silk, and it’s actually made on silk?”

Consultia pulled me tighter and looked up. “You know what? We should actually go to China.”

“Looking up tickets and accommodations,” Wiki said.

Libraria said, “Or we could take your little gyrocopter. I mean it goes into outer space and everything.”

“Great idea, but it’s only built for two.”

Libraria said, “We can double up. Wiki is tiny, and she could sit in your lap.”

Wiki clasped a hand to her heart, smiled and nodded. “Sounds like a blast.”

The sky grew dark and dimmed the light in the writing cabin. Thunder rolled across the meadow, and the door kicked in. Lorelei* stood in the doorway, and she was pissed.

“What are you doing here?” Libraria asked.

“Call it an intervention. Now you bitches get out.”

“That isn’t very nice,” I said. “These girls are helping me with my book.”

Helping! Is that what you think? These are Sirens, Research Sirens, and their job is to enrapture you and distract you until you abandon your story. Then you’ll think of a better story, and a better one after that. You’ll never finish another story. Now I said move, and I meant it.”

The girls slowly backed away, stuffing things into book bags, purses, and in Consultia’s case her blouse. They walked in-step to the door. The view from this direction was just as fabulous as the other way. I put my elbows on the desk, and my face in my hands.

Lorelei slapped me across the cheek.

“Ouch!”

“Oh you liked it. They are distant cousins of mine, and have been wrecking authors for centuries. Fiction isn’t the same as other writing. Speculative fiction is even less connected to facts.”

“Yeah, but there still needs to be a basis in reality to ground the reader.”

“Absolutely, but after you’ve developed the world, you can plow through some of it. Imagine your story about Yak Guy growing up. He’s coming along nicely, and then your readers are shifted into ten thousand words about the history of silk. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll lose the story.”

“That sounds bad alright. So where’s the line?”

“It’s different for every story. In something like Panama, you needed to research the area, and get the names right. In Wild Concept and Arson, you can make some of it up. Some science fiction is less adventure and more theory based, in that case you have to do your research.”

“How do you suggest I proceed? They seem like great researchers.”

“They are the absolute best researchers. That’s part of their spell, but their goal is different than yours.” She put an arm around Lisa. “This is all the research you need. She can Wiki, Library, and Converse with the best of them. She can even feed a video to your monitor if she has to. She isn’t trying to derail your career, and keep you from success. Remember, a paragraph or two is usually enough in the stories you write.”

“But I learn so much cool stuff when I research.”

“Yes, it looked like you were having a good time. You can’t share everything you learn. Take some tidbits and bullshit your way through it. The Raven of Doubt will be there for you at the end.”

“How did you know to show up here?”

“Lisa called me. She told me what was going on and emailed me pictures of the Sirens. I came as soon as I could.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“I’ve been helping you write since the day you started. Your talent has improved over the years, and your success has grown too. You have to trust me on this one. Part of that success is your ability to finish what you start. Perfection is impossible, but damned good is a possibility. Those girls would ruin all of that, and have you thanking them for it.”

“Lisa, make a note to always be here when I’m researching. If something goes off the rails, you can intervene.”

“I’ve got your back, boss.”

* Lorelei is my Muse. Lisa is my robotic personal assistant.

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Productive day, finally

My wife had an early appointment for her first service on her new car. She left the house early.

Lorelei, the Muse, arrived just as my wife’s car disappeared. She strolled in the house wearing black tights under a grey mini skirt. She wore a leather jacket and boots.

“It appears your last excuse is gone. You need to start your novel now,” she said.

“I know, but you haven’t actually gone easy on me. I have all these characters fighting in my mind now. You keep sending them, and sending them.”

“I only do it because you’ve been stalling. Maybe one of these characters will appeal to you more.”

“It isn’t that, actually. I like the novel idea, I’ve just been waiting –”

“For your new keyboard?”

“Yeah.”

“And now it’s here.”

“I know. I need to get the Angel out of my head first.”

“Is that another excuse?”

“No. She’s just been lodged there, and if I give her some micro-fiction she will go away.”

“Then what?”

“Then I’ll start my novel.”

“Is that a promise?”

“That’s a promise.”

“Good, I didn’t want to take more drastic measures.”

“I’m glad it didn’t come to that. I’m not in the mood for noogies, or a purple nurple.”

“I only do it to drive you to new heights.” She stood and headed for the door. Her skirt hugged every curve. She cast an eye back over her shoulder. “Write the Angel. Then get started on the novel. Don’t make me wait.”

“I gave my word didn’t I?”

“You did.”

And just like that she was gone. Her sandalwood perfume lingered as I attached my keyboard and went to work. The Angel story has a very slight Christmas bent. I’ll share it with you, but reserve the right to put it into a second book of micro-fiction and short stories. Let me know if you like it.

Angel

She descends from the heavens, folding her wings back into a stoop. As she gains speed, her blonde locks pull back from her face.

A flick of one wing adjusts her path toward the old part of the city. The bad part of the city.

She rolls sideways between two tenement buildings that nearly touch, and alights on the roof of a liquor store.

Freezing rain pelts her wings, and the white fabric of her tunic clings to her body. She turns toward the sound of a garbage truck lifting the round bins toward its gaping maw. Still a block away.

She steps from the roof and lands delicately in the alley. The stench overwhelms her. Diesel fumes mingle with garbage, and the odor of human waste. She walks past ramshackle shelters made of cardboard, stepping around hypodermic needles and a puddle of vomit. She moves toward one of the round garbage bins.

A faint cry rings out from inside, a cry of fear, loss, and uncertainty. She opens the bin and touches the baby inside. “Rest now. Be brave. Things have not yet been decided. If this is your only time on Earth, look at the clouds above and know there is more to life.”

The baby calms and smiles at the angelic face above her. She kicks her feet and wriggles.

The garbage truck rumbles closer. It lifts a bin and the echoes of the spilling garbage break the pre-dawn. The machinery crushes the trash with a sound of breaking glass and crumpling metal.

Voices reach their ears. “I hope we find some more pumpkins, Joe. I like it when the pumpkins squish like grapes.”

“Not likely, Chuck. The winos eat the damned things. I’ll bet half the drunks and junkies down here had barbecued pumpkin this week.”

Chuck walked to the next bin while Joe moved the truck forward. When the truck was in position, Chuck attached the hoist and lifted the bin toward the crusher. He moved it backward and forward several times with a resounding clunks. “I hate it when they pack stuff in so tight. It gets stuck, because they’re too cheap to rent a second bin.”

“Way of the world, Chuck. I can almost understand it down here, but it’s the same way out on Commerce Boulevard. They have money, but an extra nine bucks per month kills them.”

She lowers the lid over the baby and steps off to the side. The rain picks up and her hair slicks down over her forehead. She pushes it back, and ice already formed at the tips.

Joe moves the truck into position, and Chuck approaches the bin.

She squats down beside the bin, and moves her face to the side. “Fight back now. Nobody will give you anything in this life, you must make your own way. Cry out! Be defiant. Give it everything you have, because there are no second chances tonight.”

Chuck attaches the bin and lifts it off the ground. The baby cries out.

Chuck stops. He lowers the bin to the ground.

“What’s the hold up?” Joe asks.

“Keep your pants on. There’s one of those crying dolls inside. Mary Lou’s daughter might like it.”

“You still trying to plug Mary Lou?”

“Yeah, and giving her kid a Christmas present is going to make it happen.”

“Hurry up then. If we fill up in time, we can beat the rush hour traffic back to the dump. Maybe they’ll still have doughnuts.”

Chuck opens the bin. The baby cries even louder, and Joe’s head emerges from the truck window.

She puts her hands over her chest and a single tear rolls down her cheek, freezing before it reaches her chin. “Good baby. Brave baby.”

Chuck reaches inside the bin. “You aren’t going to believe this. I think we need to call someone.”

“We will, but get her in the cab, it’s freezing out there.”

She unfurls her wings and shakes the rain off them, before climbing back to the heavens.

***

This is probably a good time to mention that my Experimental Notebook is a book of similar short stories and micro fiction. If you click on the cover in my sidebar, you can read it for the princely sum of 99¢.

It may not seem like much, but I managed a page or two of my new novel after I got the Angel out of my head. Yak Guy is off to a good start.

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The Muse returns

Long time readers of this blog will know about my prostate problem. I hate to bring it up again, but it played a supporting role last night. I have to relieve myself several times every night. Last night was different.

I slept through the entire night, but at 5:30 AM nature didn't call, it made a Tarzan yell. I stumbled into the bathroom, then back to bed. With the recent time change, it felt like time to get up. We still don't have a furnace, and those warm covers won out.

I wound up in that slumbering stage between real sleep, and really should get my ass up. That's when I smelled the sandalwood.

I smiled and gave in. Lorelei* was here, and I wanted to know what she brought me.

I dreamed about a girl in an icy car wreck. She slid off a mountain and nobody rescued her. Magpies showed up and spoke to her. For those of you who don't know, magpies are carrion birds. They are members of the jay family, along with crows and ravens.

I sprang from my bed, fed the old pit bull, made coffee, and started writing. I wound up with something North of 1000 words. I don't know if that qualifies as micro-fiction or a short story. It needs editing, and I may be able to beef it up, or trim it down.

I have no idea what to do with it, but I think it's awesome. Maybe I should file it away for Macabre Macaroni 2016. Maybe I should save it for a second Experimental Notebook. (Notebook is selling pretty well, and I have a hunch there will be another one. Or something similar.)

I'm one of those authors your mother warned you about. I don't write every day. When I write, I dedicate myself to it and produce a lot of words. I also spend a lot of time on outlining, blogging, and promoting.

This caused some friction between Lorelei and I. I know she wants me to get started on Yak Guy's novel. We decided that micro-fiction and short stories were an acceptable way to keep her happy.

Lorelei doesn't give a damn about publishing. She wants me to create. She's indifferent to editing too. She's almost like the Muse of first drafts. Short fiction bridges the gap for her.

There have been times when she beat me over the head to get me to write. There was the purple nurple situation, and she threatened me with a lion this summer. Short fiction keeps us on friendly terms.

The best part is almost exactly when I finished, there was a knock at the door. We have an appointment for the furnace installation on Monday. They are here now, someone messed up and we benefit. I hope they aren't charging me overtime.

It's a win for me. A new bit of short fiction, heat – finally, but I missed out on what Lorelei was wearing. She chose to appear in my sub-conscious.

* For those of you who didn't get it from context, Lorelei is the name of my Muse.

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Coaching from the Gods

I sat behind my desk at the writing cabin. Lisa* asked for the day off to celebrate with Bunny. She believes today is a holiday for rabbit lovers everywhere. She filed back and forth from the basement to her upstairs room with boxes to build a fort for her beloved pet.

Lorelei** walked in and paused in the doorway. She wore a purple Easter dress with small white polka dots. The low-cut collar was framed by a ruffle of the same material. It cinched tight around her athletic waist. She wore a straw Easter bonnet with a large brim that turned up in front. The backlight made it look like a halo. She manipulated the light so the halo remained no matter where she went.

“You always knew how to make an entr–“

Squee! That dress is so cute!”

“Good morning, Lisa. I'm here to see Craig. I'll send you a link where I bought it.”

Lisa thanked her and carried a small basket of fresh vegetables upstairs.

Lorelei sat on the couch and crossed her legs. “Vacation's over. How do you think you did?”

“Bad.” I picked up my cup and moved to the easy chair beside her. “I tried to finish my novel, but didn't even get close.”

“I was watching from Olympus. I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did some good work.”

“I just didn't do enough of it. There were whole days where I didn't write.”

“Was that your fault?”

“No, but–“

She held a finger up to silence me. “Things happen. You don't control your own destiny, so you have to make the best of the time you get. I saw new chapters, and some of it's very good. I also saw new short stories.”

“Maybe I should get rid of the short stories for a while. At least until I finish my novel.”

“I send you ideas. You've been discarding those that can't carry a novel. That was fine, but now it's time for you to grow as an author. Those ideas are good, but sometimes a shorter tale is better suited. I like the idea that you've been writing them.”

“I think I have too many ideas. I could have spent that time on my novel.”

“But you wouldn't have. You like to write in quiet and solitude. You always have, and probably always will.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “I saw you writing at the same time as your lovely wife was watching television.”

I paused and thought before I spoke. “I'm just having fun with the short stuff. There are less plot points to work out, and generally fewer characters. I can free write them, and edit them later.”

“You're on the verge of a breakthrough. Let me help you here.” She steepled her fingers and chose her words. “You started writing, because you love it. You are the one who turned it into a job. I had nothing to do with that, and am trying to support you. Your own mind rebelled, and gave you something to write for fun once more.”

“Wait, wait, wait! How can I improve if I don't take it seriously?”

“I never said not to take it seriously. You simply need, a bit, of fun. All work and no play makes Craig a dull boy.” She reached over and lifted my chin with a perfectly manicured nail. A shiver ran down my spine.

“Maybe if I had less ideas I could take some time away after this novel is finished.”

“But you won't. You'll get all worked up over marketing, or some new project you want to outline. You're even talking about making the short stories into a book. I need you to write for fun too. If some of the shorts are good, I'll let you bundle the good ones together for others. Just consider them as personal entertainment for today. Write many, and harvest the best. Enjoy yourself.”

“Doesn't the blog do that?”

“It provides you with interaction, something you also need. It requires participating in comments, and even hosting friends. Those are important, but different than we're discussing today. You could easily be a hermit, because that's your nature. I won't let that happen.”

I emptied my coffee and retrieved the pot, along with a cup for Lorelei. “Sorry, Lisa usually does all this. So what's next for me?”

“Keep writing. Keep including a personal challenge in each story.”

“What challenges do you have in mind?”

“You still like the epistolary style. Maybe it's time you tried it. You could try an omniscient narrator, that would be new. Maybe you should write the story of an extroverted character.”

“Maybe somewhere down the road.”

“That's the point. Now you get to think about these things, and someday later you challenge yourself. Right now, your lovely wife just put the ham in the oven and you'd better get back. You have company coming.”

* Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She's a robot and works as my personal assistant.

* Lorelei is my Muse. She's from Olympus, and takes my writing very seriously.

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