Oh, That Muse…

Random, Writing

A lot of creative people have a muse. Dictionary.com defines muse as the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like. Pretty fair definition, I’d say.

Some people are lucky enough to have a real person as their muse, but I’m not. Some people find inspiration in a photo, or a piece of art, or a place, or even a cat. I don’t.

Of course not. I can’t possibly be normal, have something so mundane as a muse I could look at, talk to, interact with. Nope. Not happening.

Instead, I get a nebulous and temperamental voice in my head. Well, sort of a voice. That’s the easiest way to think of it, even though it makes me sound completely insane. Sometimes this ephemeral muse is kind to me and showers me with ideas. Other times, like in recent months, my muse shuts the hell up and won’t say anything at all, even under threat of violence. Which, let me tell you, makes me feel real adult and rational, threatening to kick the shit out of something that doesn’t even exist.

I’ve been thinking about this temperamental muse of mine a lot lately, wondering what its problem is. (His problem? The bugger’s cranky enough to be a male.) And… it keeps coming back to the same thing: the real world.

See, my muse went on a long hiatus once before. It began on September 11, 2001, and lasted for a really long time. I went from writing and creating 3D art all the time, pretty much non-stop, to just barely creating anything at all. Because after what happened, writing smutty, slashy fanfiction just seemed so unimportant and trivial, it wasn’t even worth it.

But a good muse won’t be kept down, and mine eventually recovered. It started presenting me with idea after idea–you should see my WIP file–and helping me fill my online galleries with art.

And then… political bullshit happened.

Leaving my muse all sorts of pouty and unhappy, barely willing to toss out a half-hearted idea every now and again.

Idiots running my country, bills growing larger than my income can support, bigots and assholes partying in the streets… What place for creativity in all that? Why bother? Why not go crawl under a rock and hide, don’t worry about writing queer fiction or blog posts, don’t bother producing pretty pictures in a world full of ugly…

Yeah, whatever. That’s a line of crap I’m not going to buy into. Because I’m not going to let this stupid world get me down. I will feed my muse with Dr. Pepper (the real sugar kind) and pizza until it cheers up, and I will keep right on writing and making 3D art.

It’s harder now than it should be, yeah. But it feels like not writing is letting the jerks of the world win, somehow. Like allowing the stupidity of others to keep me from creating art or writing is just giving up and letting “them” win.

So screw “them.”

If nothing else, at least I can create beautiful worlds where bigots and assholes get run over by steam-powered freight trains or blown up by colossal fireballs. That’s the beauty of being a writer, after all.

Writing Is For Writers

Writing

So you want to be a writer. You read a lot of books, and you think it would be really cool to see your name on a fabulous story. But writing is for writers, right? Normal people don’t write books. Only people who have magically transformed into this amazing, mysterious being known as a writer can write books. Right?

Wrong.

That way of thinking, while unfortunately pretty common, is a big pile of baloney. I thought that way myself for years. Sure, I made up lots of stories. Sure, I even wrote them down in carefully concealed notebooks that no one would ever see. But that didn’t make me a writer. Writers were people who produced amazing tales without effort, typing away in a special magical world, untroubled by reality. Writers never had to go back and revise or edit, because everything came out shiny, perfect, and publication-ready.

Ha!

The real truth is, writers are people who write. It’s not any kind of magical ability. It’s a lot of work, really. But it’s worth all the effort to have a finished story come out the other end.

So how do you do this writing thing? It’s a very individual process, coming as it does from inside a writer. Here are some suggestions to get you going.

Location

Find a spot to write. Okay, I know that sounds very self-evident. But it helps to have a designated spot to write in, because your brain gets accustomed to being creative in that spot. Some people like privacy, some like sitting in the middle of a busy coffee shop. Experiment a bit. Look around. If you write with portable tools, like a laptop or pen and paper, you’re free to find a spot wherever you can get to easily and won’t get chased off by annoyed workers. If you’re like me and write on a desktop computer, make your space around the computer special. Fill it with things you like. Because guess what? If you’re serious about writing, you’re going to spend a whole lot of time there.

Time

One of my biggest challenges is finding time to write, and I absolutely am not alone in that. My solution was to start getting up ridiculously early in the mornings (4:30am, UGH!) and reserving an hour for writing. It’s rather hard to get up that early, but very worth it. I highly recommend setting aside a specific time, whether daily or weekly or whatever, that is your specific writing time. Although if an idea hits you at some other time, by all means scribble that bad boy down! If you can do so safely, that is. Because if you put it aside for later, it just might vanish, and leave you wondering what that idea was you had on the way to work.

Learn

Becoming a good writer does not just happen. Well, maybe it does if you’re some kind of amazing super-being, but for the rest of us, we have to learn how to write. There are a vast number of books available on the craft of writing, many of which are actually far more interesting than your high school English class. There are also a lot of writing classes and workshops available. Writer’s Village University is my favorite. Looking around on the site, it looks like they’ve killed off the old free F2K course, but they offer a $30 trial membership. I’ve let my paid membership lapse due to financial issues, but it was very much worth the cost.

There are also a near-infinite variety of free “how to write” resources on the web. Obviously. You’re reading one right now. Look around. Explore the different resources. Be aware that some of what you’ll find is pure crap. Pick up the bits and pieces of advice that work for you, and remember them.

Practice

There’s a book out there called Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Overall, it bugged me, for an assortment of reasons. But. The book gave me two concepts that are very important to my writing. One of these is writing practice.

Here’s a quick overview of the technique. Dedicate fifteen minutes of your day to writing. Not thinking, not daydreaming, writing. Get busy. Write what’s in you head, even if it’s just stream-of-consciousness. Keep it up for the full fifteen minutes.

And then, after you’re done, you might just find something amazing in the verbal barf you just produced: an idea, a neat turn of phrase, a sentence you’re just dying to have your main character use. There you go.

Another benefit to writing practice is that it gets you in the habit of writing. This ties in to what I’ve already said about location and time. It’s all about habits and training your brain. Or, if you prefer, training your muse.

Permission To Write

Yes, that sounds stupid. But it’s not. Give yourself permission to write. Forget about whatever societal baggage you’re dragging around that says only writers can write. And then take it one step further and apply the other world-changing bit of advice Natalie Goldberg offers: It’s okay to write shitty first drafts. No one’s going to read them unless you want them to. If your characters want to run around calling each other poopy-heads, that’s fine. Just get the words out on the page, whether paper or virtual. Once you’ve produced a whole, complete story, then you can worry about fixing it. So let yourself go! Tell your inner editor to put a sock in it. Sit down and write!

Okay, there you go. Nothing special, nothing fancy, just a paraphrasing of some different basic concepts I’ve seen pop up again and again since I decided to start writing for real. What it really boils down to is summed up in the absolute best piece of writing advice I’ve ever been given: Apply butt to chair. Place fingers on keyboard. Write!

 

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be blogging…

Writing

After several months of colossal personal issues and a side order of upheaval, things are finally settling down. So I’m going to get back to work. Right in time for Camp NaNo, of course. Still haven’t decided if I want to do this blog weekly or monthly, but it will get done.

So look for a for-real post with actual substance to it sometime soon, as in within the next week or two. My original plan still stands: the main focus of the blog will be on writing, with side ventures into 3D art and occasional personal babbling.

The first topic, coming soon, will be about writing. Yes, I know I said that already. But I mean writing, not sitting around saying “I wish I could write” or “Someday I’ll write a book.” Actually sitting down and writing. Scary, ain’t it?

Born Of Frustration

Writing

A couple weeks ago, I was starting in on a new book I picked up from Instafreebie. This should have been a good thing. It’s a free book, right? Awesome! And it has a cool cover, and an intriguing title. I was all sorts of happy and excited to jump right in.

BUT.

The typos snuck in first. Just one, then another, then a few more. Then the misused words arrived. And then came the horrible, sloppy feel to the writing. I barely made it through the first chapter.

I checked the info at the front of the book, and sure enough, this sad little thing was self-published.

Now that tidbit of information simultaneously pissed me off and made me sad. Because, you see, I self-publish. So I tend to take a poorly edited self-published story as a personal insult. They give hard-working authors like me, that bust some serious butt on multiple revisions and heavy-duty editing, then have a beta reader or two go over things and find what we missed, a really bad name. Because people get hold of a self-published book like this freebie I tried to read and assume that all self-published writers don’t bother to edit their work.

This whole episode reminded me of a time when, long ago, I was a slash writer and reader. And then slash started getting popular, and everyone wanted to write it, and it got all crappy. And… in response, I created a website with slash writing tips and links to writing resources. It was moderately popular, too, judging by the traffic on my server. Then real life exploded and I had to abandon the project.

But I think I’m going to take up the “improve lazy writing” torch again, right here on this blog. *sigh* Just what I need, another project… But lack of time aside, I really feel the need to do something about the vast amount of lousy writing out there on the wild web. Yeah, it’s true, lazy writing makes mine look really good in comparison. But who the hell is going to bother checking out self-published books at all if they have to dig really hard to find a good one?

So writers, keep an eye out for future postings of writing resources, discussions of editing stuff, and so forth. And maybe, just maybe, someone who wants to improve their skills will stumble across this blog, and the world will be spared at least one poorly-edited, self-published story.

New Cover Art!

Writing

One of the best things about self-publishing is that I can change things I don’t like. And as my computer art skills improve, I’m going back and re-doing old, sucky covers. I finished a new one for With Honor today. And… re-read it, found a couple errors that snuck through my final edits, and repaired them. Also worked on improving my lousy blurb-writing skills.

Available through Smashwords and Amazon. Just don’t be surprised if the link takes you to an Amazon page with the crappy old blurb and title, because Amazon takes a few days sometimes to update changes.

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Promo: The Chains of Their Sins, by Anna Butler

Writing

I have an announcement today, here on my barely-started, mostly empty blog. Anna Butler, an amazing writer whom I’ve known and admired forever, has a new release out today! Check it out, Anna’s writing never, ever disappoints.

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Taking Shield 04 : The Chains Of Their Sins

PUBLICATION DATE : 13 February 2017

About the Taking Shield series

Earth’s a dead planet, dark for thousands of years; lost for so long no one even knows where the solar system is. Her last known colony, Albion, has grown to be regional galactic power in its own right. But its drive to expand and found colonies of its own has threatened an alien race, the Maess, against whom Albion is now fighting a last-ditch battle for survival in a war that’s dragged on for generations.

Taking Shield charts the missions and adventures of Shield Captain Bennet, scion of a prominent military family. Against the demands of his family’s ‘triple goddess’ of Duty, Honour and Service, is set Bennet’s relationships with lovers and family. When the series opens, Bennet is at odds with his long term partner, Joss, who wants him out of the military and back in an academic, archaeological career. He’s estranged from his father, Caeden, who is the commander of Fleet’s First Flotilla. Events of the first book, in which he is sent to his father’s ship to carry out an infiltration mission behind Maess lines, improve his relationship with Caeden, but bring with them the catalyst that will destroy the one with Joss: one Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, who, over the course of the series, develops into Bennet’s main love interest.

Over the Taking Shield story arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.

Taking Shield 01: Gyrfalcon

Taking Shield 02: Heart Scarab

Taking Shield 03: Makepeace

(2nd place winner, Rainbow Awards 2016)

About The Chains of Their Sins

Shield Captain Bennet arrives on the Gyrfalcon to take up his final year’s posting before returning to the Shield Regiment after his rotation out.

On the Gyrfalcon he faces up to the fallout from Makepeace—ethical, political and above all, personal. Will he be able to accept necessity: that knowing what the Maess are up to outweighs the humanitarian issues surrounding the prisoners he rescued from Makepeace? Can he ride out the political furore that follows the loss of the dreadnought Caliban? How will he cope with an entire year of serving under his father, Caeden? And worst of all, how in the name of every god in the Pantheon can he stand to see Flynn every single day, with the Fraternisation Regs standing between them and keeping them apart?

It will be an interesting year. Bennet can hardly wait for it to be over. Of course, things never really do go to plan…

Book Title: Chains of Their Sins

Series: Taking Shield

Publisher: Glass Hat Press

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas

Wordcount: c 98,000

Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream

(ARCs available)

Excerpt

More Hornets were out of the tubes, racing to catch up; almost everyone, now. Bennet had the Patroklus squadron on visual, little points of light on his left, speeding towards him. He held the Starboard and Port wings in position, waiting for Patroklus to join him, listening to the continuous stream of inter-ship Comms that gave him the intel he needed on everyone’s position. Captain Sergei reported he was in position.

Heads up, boys and girls,” Bennet said over the command line. “Bandits will be here in two minutes. Battlecode comm transmissions only.”

All chatter stopped. Everything around him fell silent. It took him a second to realise that the dull muffled thumping that he felt as much as heard, was his own quickening heartbeat. His eyes never stopped moving—to port, ahead, the scanner, to port, ahead, to starboard, ahead, the scanner, ahead, to port…

His gaze flickered to port-side most. His pilots were out there, tackling the outriders to the first wave of fighters. Nothing much to see. The fighters were drones, with no internal atmospheres to give even the briefest flash of light and heat when they were destroyed. If he saw a flash, it would be one of their own.

Port, ahead, the scanner, port, ahead, starboard…

All advance bandits accounted for,” Kyle said. “No survivors.”

Casualties?”

None. Clean strike.”

Good. Stand by.” Look to port, ahead, the scanner, ahead, to starboard, ahead, the scanner, ahead… “Kyle, you have their left flank. Sergei, their right. Starboard Wing, we’re punching right through these guys to take on the second wave.”

Yes!” The excitement in Kyle’s voice was unmistakable.

Ready.” Sergei was more subdued.

We’re ready,” Cruz said, steady as ever. “We’re all ready.”

Bennet took a split-second to watch them get into position, the usual cold clenching around his guts, knowing they wouldn’t all come back. He had the fighters on visual now, a close-packed phalanx of ships, blotting out stars. There had to be more than a hundred of them, with a second wave of at least another hundred, maybe more, behind. A full complement of a battleship’s fighters all stacked up against the little Hornets.

Bennet opened his private comline to the Gyrfalcon. “Ten seconds, bridge. We’re going in.” He only half-heard Quist’s acknowledgement. He’d already keyed into the battle code comline. A deep breath. “All Attack Wings, intercept attackers and engage the enemy. Go!”

Five seconds later the front ranks of Hornets and fighters smacked right into each other.

Buy Links

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZ9QQYQ/

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MZ9QQYQ/

Available for pre-order at Kobo.

Giveaway

$25 (or equivalent) Amazon voucher.
Signed copy “Gyrfalcon”, Taking Shield Book 01.

Rafflecoptor code:

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About the author

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.

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