Friends, Muses & Summaries

Courting the muse.

Courting the muse.

I’ve had several conversations with friends over the past few years about the kinds of stories we like, the kinds of stories we want to read. One friend lamented that she’s often drawn to the proposed story lines of YA fiction but that she wishes these stories were being written “for adults”. The general consensus in the other conversations was the same. While I love magic, fantasy, mystery, romance, angst, and an epic journey resulting in vanquishing of demons both literal and figurative and personal transformation; I’d like to read these kinds of stories with adults in them.

There are some books like this out there. But not nearly enough (please leave your recommendations in the comments)

Personally I’d like to read stories about artistic creative women. I’d like to read romantic stories where the leads don’t lose their identities in each-other the moment they fall in love. AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, I DON’T NEED A BABY MADE IN THE END TO BELIEVE THEIR LOVE IS SPECIAL AND TRUE. I want happy endings that are realistic and not easily won. I’d rather the life issues the characters are dealing with mirror my own, and those I witness my friends struggling with, and not those of a teenager. 

While many teenagers do face intense issues (raises hand. I was one of them) they are not the same as the challenges facing an adult. And when they are similar in nature, they are still so very different. Perspective, it’s a bitch innit? My perspective from the other side of 40 colors what I read. As an adult who’s experienced adult problems like divorce, remarriage, illness, death, financial difficulties, accidents and debilitating depression; I don’t care about Bella, her neglectful parents or her pedo boyfriend.  

What I want to read is fantastical story lines, magical realism, epic journeys and inspiring romance - I want Harry Potter with grownups. I don’t want the heroine to give up her ambitions to mold her life to a male that’s caught her fancy and if she does finally bag him, by god the love scenes better not fade to black. While I want all this, I’d like the story to retain the magic. I’d like it to retain what singer Neko Case calls “That teenage feeling” 

You know that feeling? It’s the one that had you half waiting for a letter from Hogwarts even though it doesn’t exist, you’re 40 and both your parents are hopeless Muggles. It’s the one that has you pushing on the back of your closet wall when you go in for a coat, just in case a door to another world swings open, and Mr. Tumnus is there waiting for you.

I want that feeling in a book with characters I can relate to. I’m hoping to write books like that. (Wish me luck)

The heroine in the story I’m writing at the moment, is very much inspired by the female friends and acquaintances, that collectively I refer to as, “my muses.”

(I’m about to do some shout outs, please don’t be offended if I didn’t mention you, someone always gets forgotten in these things and it sucks. I still love you, you still inspire me.)

I can see her in my minds eye, my character: She’s over 30. (An age range sorely underrepresented in this kind of fiction). She’s spent her life putting her ambitions on hold to take care of other people. She’s getting divorced, her dad is sick. She pours herself into her work. 

I see my friends, my Muses, in her. 

I see her wearing romantic and funky clothes, enhancing her beauty with a love for aesthetics like my friends Virginia Poe and Angela Brenneman. She wears jewelry from Jen Parrish and Jenny Davies-Reazor and like them creates space for herself that is both inspiring and elegant.

Like my friend Adara Bryn she’s graceful and passionate, a brunette with shining brown eyes. She’s spiritual and wise like my friends Lisa Nault and Lisa Steinke. She’s funny and no-nonsense like my friends Yama George and Ash Evans. She’s poetic like my friends Natania Barron and Nimue Brown.

She is a collector of all things brilliant and lovely like my friends Megan Congdon and Stephanie Piña - and like them she shares her finds with the world. She is hardworking and dedicated to her creative pursuits like my friends Meredith Dillman, Teri Rosario and Amy Brown. She’s deeply compassionate and a caretaker like my friends Charity Holly, Jane Starr Weils and Lee Ann Farruga.

I just love her. She’s not perfect, none of us are. But she’s wonderful.

She deserves an adventure - don’t you think?

THE ADVENTURE

I spent far too much time recently writing a summary for my story. It needed to be done, because I needed to do it for my own sake. Once I hacked it out I felt better.

I learned a few things:

A) Summaries can be helpful in defining your story to yourself succinctly. They can help you refine and clarify a complicated plot.

B) Summaries are bullshit that make the nuanced romantic tale you have in your head sound like a cheap hollywood trailer. 

I was seriously tempted to start this damn thing with “IN A WORLD….”

Instead I give you this: 

Tessa Alexander is tired. Tired of the ongoing legal battle with her not quite ex-husband, tired of watching her father’s mind succumb to dementia, and tired of waiting for her life to begin. An art historian and amateur photographer, Tessa runs a small Philadelphia art museum dedicated to the legacy of her father’s body of work. She spends all her time espousing on the creative genius of others, and wonders if time has run out for her own ambitions. It’s a job she used to enjoy, but now on the eve of her 40th birthday she can’t remember the last time she felt excited about, anything. That is until she attends a performance of a newly scored and choreographed ballet based on one of her favorite plays, by long dead Regency era author, Sarah Brighton. A fateful meeting with the composer results in an offer too good to refuse - a year in England spent writing and living in the village that was home to Sarah Brighton and some of the world’s most beloved romantic artists. While her friends insist that a fairytale adventure is exactly what she needs, Tessa knows that at the heart of every story is a mystery, and usually a villain. But that won’t stop her from telling the tale. 

Daniel Brandewyn has devoted his life to just two things; his music and his responsibilities. As a composer he found fame and won accolades he never sought; but music, saved his life. As Earl of Ravenscar, a bucolic village on the Southern coast of England; responsibility, dominates it. The village economy, long reliant on tourism, has been steadily declining since a local tragedy over 25 years ago. Daniel is determined to save the village he loves and his ancestral home along with it. He hopes a year long campaign to promote the history of the arts in Ravenscar, the renovation of a landmark theater, and the revival of an iconic play that he has scored himself will bring life back to Ravenscar. Persuading Tessa Alexander to document his efforts feels like a stroke of inspiration. But Daniel’s learned he cannot always trust inspiration; they’ve met before, and it did not end well.

Ravenscar village is a vortex of imagination. It’s streets seem to murmur in the rain; a tale of artist’s gone before. All of them came to Ravenscar to seek their Muse. Whatever you need to feed your inspiration, your Muse will provide it. If memories torment you, your Muse will steal them. If words are lost to you, your Muse will find them. If skill has left you, your Muse will return it. If ambition taunts you, your Muse will set success at your feet. In Ravenscar Village anything is possible, everything exists. Whatever is required to fuel imagination, the Muses, will supply it. It’s up to humanity to survive it.

 

Til later lovely muses.  

Artistic Serendipity or Clearing the Path


Energy, science tells us, follows the path of least resistance. All things moving through a system choose the path of fewest obstacles.* Water flowing down a hillside. Sand through your fingers.  A landslide.


In my artistic life, I've found that I'm happiest when I not only remember this principle, but when I apply it resolutely.

The most magical projects, the endeavors that set my soul alight are the ones where every moment visiting with my Muse is one of revelation, utter joy, or transformation. Threads of inspiration connect and a tapestry of intention is woven with seemingly little effort. Suddenly the world is full of signs, all in support of my quest. Friends share links that are shockingly connected to my current work. Books are published that support a hypothesis, or are the perfect research tool for a character I'm creating. I discover new music that is the restorative for my creative psyche. These are moments when I feel like the universe is holding my hand, leading me down an ancient path, showing me the footprints of all the others that walked this way before me.

You don't have to be mystical to experience this. It's nothing supernatural. It's only magic. Whether the universe has truly risen in support of your work or whether you simply feel that way because you have risen in support of yourself - whether these are signs from your Muse or whether you are only recognizing them as such because you are in the throes of neurochemical love with your own art; it doesn't matter.

It's beautiful.

But when we are resisting, it's all a bit different.

My foray into writing has been a completely new path for me. This strange environment is humbling. I've sat in the dark with a tangle of words and a chord of a story thrumming in my chest, with no clue how to string it into song.


Creating this way is agony. Nothing goes right, the work is joyless and insecurity rampant. This is not to say that just because something is hard that it isn't worth doing. Not at all. But in my case, when something is too hard, when a project I've been in love with turns to maggots in my hands, I have to examine why. More often than not it's because I'm just not listening to the Muse.


The agony only stopped for me when I finally remembered to stop resisting. The truth is that I don't have to have a clue how to do this. That's the Muse's job. My job is to clear the path. I'm not the energy. I am not the inspiration. I'm the system. And it's my job to not throw up obstacles.


The energy, the spark of inspiration, all of it will flow through when it's ready, when the path is clear.

Clearing the path is the challenge.

For years I've been writing a big story, what I refer to as THE STORY, in my mind. It's huge, there are parenthetical tales inside of parenthetical tales. It's a ridiculous project for a first book.

Which is why it won't be my first. <<--- a fact that came as something of a surprise to me.

See the idea that THE STORY had to be written first, that was the first obstacle I threw up for my Muse. I'm a web weaver when it comes to inspiration, but I'm very linear and full of self imposed rules when it comes to production. "This was the story I'd been working on longest" I thought "It gets written first and that's all there is to it. All other inspiration gets it's mouth duct taped shut and stuffed in a box."

Yeah right. While I was littering our path with boxes stuffed with muffled inspiration, my Muse was behind me, releasing the contents and laughing at me.

I was blind sided with a new story months ago. It was partly inspired by my life long obsession with all things Jane Austen and the recent 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice. I didn't see what the heck this new story had to do with anything I was already writing. I didn't want to move outside of the world I was building. I told my Muse that parts of this story were sort of well, embarrassingly hokey. WTF a magic pen? I wasn't sure where she was going with all this.

She rolled her eyes at me and told me the rest of the story.

I was hooked.

I stopped resisting. I stopped throwing obstacles into the path.


The world opened up. The heavens parted, the angels wept. Serendipity.  

Suddenly its seems like almost everything new I encounter is shown to me by the Muse in support of my work. Whether it's magic, or just my subconscious rallying in support of myself, it doesn't matter. This is how I know that I'm clearing the path, that I'm on the right track.



*Well except for those Parkour folks