Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Meet my Muse

If you're an author, you're supposed to have a Muse.

It's an ancient tradition, stretching all the way back to early Greece, where the Muses were said to be the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.  The Muses inspired mortals to create great works of art and literature, which couldn't have been an easy day's work since neither pants nor Microsoft Word had been invented.

The Muses were actively sought by artists of the day, because having a Muse whispering in your ear pretty much guaranteed you the Bronze Age equivalent of best-sellerdom. The poet Homer even dedicated the first book of his Odyssey to a Muse, stating:

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy." (Robert Fagles translation, 1996)

I don't agree with the Fagles translation above. What Homer really wrote was this:

"Let's sell a few hundred thousand scrolls, baby, because Daddy needs a new pair of sandals."

And, since Homer's Muse was one of the original nine, he did just that, becoming the J.K. Rowling of his day.

I don't live in ancient Greece, which is fine by me, because no number of finely-carved Corinthian columns could ever make up for the inexcusable lack of wifi. Seriously, it's no wonder that all ancient cultures did was fight and brew increasingly powerful alcoholic beverages. Who can get through an whole day without checking their email at least once? I'd be ready to sack Troy on a whim too.

But even modern-day authors a long way from Athens claim their own Muses. Not any of the original nine, of course -- Amazon's introduction of the KDP self-publishing platform spawned a recent sharp increase in the number of people claiming to be authors, which means Muses are in short supply and often working double or triple shifts. In fact, the shortage is so severe demigods from other pantheons and areas of endeavor are often pressed into Muse service, resulting in situations where Andraste, the Celtic goddess of rabbit-magic, winds up red-faced and mumbling into the ears of half a dozen romance authors who don't understand why their characters twitch their noses so often these days.

I've wondered about my Muse for years now. Aside from occasional distant snickers or airy whispers of "Oh, not that again" I don't get much divine inspiration while writing.

But I am a writer, and I do have books on Amazon, so by the Ancient Code I get a Muse. It only took a bit of digging through old bookstores and a brief glance inside the Kindle version of the Necronomicon (Second Edition, Mad Abdul Press, with illustrations throughout) to discover the ritual for invoking one's personal Muse.

The tricky part of the ritual involved getting the Klein bottle inside the tesseract without spilling the two-headed squid, but after that, it was simply a matter of reading off a few words of ancient Greek. As the final echoes of the words died away, the air inside the summoning circle shimmered, and a voice spake the words 'All circuits are busy, please try again later, you will find a charge for $29.99 added to your wireless data bill, thank you for using Verizon.'

I haven't gotten my Muse to materialize, but after six repetitions of the summoning ritual I finally got an email, which I've reproduced below.

Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 11:52:43 -0600 [12:52:43 PM EST]
From: Visavarevagsitaga <>
Subject: Enough With the Summoning Already

Mr. or Ms. (Insert Author's Name Here),

Greetings! I am (insert your name here), your personal writing Muse. I am pleased that you have attempted the ancient rite of summoning. We Muses deeply regret that our current schedules and work load do not allow us to meet with every client.

Please make no further attempts at a summoning, as they will go unacknowledged. Also the squid will explode.

As your Muse, I, (insert your name here), am always ready to provide you with Divine inspiration for your writing endeavors. If you find a spiritual connection does not meet with your needs, you may use this email address NO MORE THAN ONCE PER JULIAN CALENDAR MONTH to ask six brief questions of me. 

We look forward to providing you with quality literary inspiration.


(insert your name here).

An afternoon of research revealed that my Muse Visavarevagitaga was the daughter of  the Sumerian god of pointed sticks and his consort, Eatalottasalsa, who was reputed to hold dominion over red feather-dusters and a small plot of land east of Ur.

Of the goddess Visavarevagitaga herself little is known, save for her disdain of shorn oxen and songs featuring the lyrics 'la la la.' The only recorded miracle performed by Visavarevagitaga resulted in the sudden appearance of half a dozen lethargic toads and a tankard of beer later described as 'just more of that sour Egyptian stump-water.' She is said to have vanished from the Sumerian pantheon in a snit after being depicted on a temple fresco as having the head of a wombat and a length of toilet paper stuck to her shoe.

But, as we know, one must take the Muse one is assigned, and hope for the best. With this in mind, I sent her an email yesterday and asked my six questions. The reply just came in, so read along with me...

Date:  Sat, 14 Jan 2013 11:52:43 -0600 [04:51:43 PM EST]
From:  Visavarevagsitaga <>
Subject:  Re: My Six Questions

Mr. or Ms. (Insert Author's Name Here),

Greetings! I am (insert your name here), your personal writing Muse. I am pleased that you have chosen to ask My wisdom in regard to your six (6) allotted monthly questions. My replies are below. Sorry about the squid, but you were warned.

Question 1: What can I do to improve sales of my existing books?
Answer: How in Hades should I know? I'm a Muse, not an Oracle. I whisper inspiration in your ear. What happens next isn't my problem. I can do a couple of toads, if that will help. Moron.

Question 2: Lately, I don't feel the same motivation to write that I once did. Why? What can I do to change this?
Answer: Look, monkey-boy, stop trying to cram three questions into one. This ain't my first rodeo, got that? And maybe you'd feel more 'motivated' to write if you'd listen to me once in a while instead of messing around on Twitter. Yeah, you think I can't see that? Hashtag lazywriter, pal. 'Nuff said.

Question 3: How can I make my characters more realistic, more sympathetic?
Answer: I am Visavarevagsitaga! I once ruled the entirety of Mesopotamia, and you ask me questions barely worthy of a community college Creative Writing instructor? Expect a pair of toads in your Cheerios, bub.

Question 4: Will I ever be a big commercial success?
Answer: Again, you want an Oracle, not a Muse, but let me save you a couple of squid and answer anyway -- you will be a big commercial success about the same time I sponsor a NASCAR team. So when you turn on ESPN and see a bright orange Camaro with "Visavarevagsitaga Racing" plastered on the hood, you know you're about to hit the big time. Idiot.

Question 5: Is it better to start by carefully outlining the plot, or by just diving in and letting the book shape itself?
Answer: Once upon a time, when I rolled My eyes in disgust, mortals dove for cover. So let me answer your question with a question -- What is the sound of  one hand slapping you upside your head? THWACK. The book gets written either way, and I couldn't care less. Mollusk.

Question 6: Is it best to provide a detailed physical description of main characters, or give minimal details and let readers create their own images of the people in the book?
Answer: I have no reply, because you just BORED ME RIGHT TO DEATH. So now I have to petition Otoralit, Dark Lord of the Underworld, for a bus pass just to get home. Thanks ever so bleeding much. That was your last question. Your height is five-six. There's your final answer. Go away. 


(insert your name here)

From now on, I believe I will seek inspiration elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. I think your muse just wrote a short story worthy of publication. 99 cents folks! Just sent 99 cents to Frank Tuttle! (And his muse, but spelling that name is a waste of time, so just send it to Frank.)

    I think your only mistake was to use a two-headed squid. And being called a mollusk? Well. That was just rude.