We all have our “muse” stories.
We joke about how frustrated they are with us, as we tap away on Twitter or Insta when we should be creating our masterpiece(s). We worry they’ll abandon us, leaving us high and dry on the mountain of tears that is a writer’s life. We consider them the somewhat spiritual, or perhaps spooky, life force of our creativity—providing us plot bunnies to chase, or solutions to soggy middles, or resolutions to conflict.
Sometimes we bestow personalities upon them. Me? I always claim mine is a hot shirtless dude in lederhosen clutching my favorite beer, begging me with his deep green eyes to “woman up and write the stories without regard to future success or even sales.” Hans, I call him. I even once paid a cover model to pose as him at a book release party, back in the day when I invested emotional and fiscal energy in such things.
In reality, of course, I was on my own when it came to those bunnies, soggies, and HEAs.
Between the years of 2010 and 2018 I wrote no fewer than 40 novels and novellas, many times late into the night, all to the detriment of my family, friends and health. But damn, I was on a roll, creatively speaking. I had SO MANY WORDS in me, pent up, I suppose in the years I spent having babies, moving all over the globe, trying to find my way in real estate. I had to GET THEM OUT, and I did, by golly. Late nights, early mornings, the odd lunch hour, I would become possessed by them, my eyes would glaze over, and I would pour them onto the laptop screen for hours (and hours and yet more hours).
During these years, I’d find myself stuck at times, usually in that aforementioned gooey middle part of a novel, trying to get heroine A and hero B past their conflict in a realistic way and onto the happily ever after. I’m aces at conflict. I love creating reasons a couple shouldn’t/couldn’t/can’t be together. Inner angst and bad history and self-recrimination not to mention outward pressures like addiction, temptation, and Wait-that’s-my-big-brother’s- girlfriend type scenarios are something I totally groove on as an author. It’s the next step, the whole how-to-resolve-it-in-a-way-satisfying-to-romance-readers thing that I sometimes trip up on and my reviews reflect this. Liz books are like, um….say, Brussels sprouts (but without the toots). You either love ‘em, or you hate ‘em and my haters are a-plenty.
But I digress. Because one thing I’ve learned is that even if I’m not everyone’s cuppa Darjeeling, it really isn’t that big of a deal.
No, my point, Liz acolytes, is this. I would get stuck. And that whole Hans-the-muse-with-a-beer-and-his-nipples-showing thing wasn’t getting me unstuck, ever.
I was lucky because I had two other muses.
Real ones. I’ve referred to them fairly frequently in my social medias and whatnot. Roxie and Layla (pronounced “Lie-La” and yeah I regret using the Turkish spelling but that’s another story for another day). They were standard poodles, one year apart, that we acquired while we were on the flip side of a long seven years spent with my spouse and kids overseas as expats in three different countries where things like puppies and floor piddle and crate training are pretty much impossible.
When we returned to the U.S., bought the requisite semi-suburban house and got the kids sorted back into American schools, we went full bore into all of the above, including plenty of floor piddle. We got Layla before we even got the house, and I always feel somewhat bad about the temporary condo’s carpet. She was a cream-colored lovely who was so dang mellow we could take her anywhere and people didn’t believe she was a puppy. That was easy, we thought. Let’s get another one. About a year later we got Roxie, Layla’s polar opposite in color and temperament.
These were my babies, and they were awesome.
Grown, they were about 45 pounds each, required professional grooming and were fabulously crate trained within weeks. They loved to bewalked together, so I spent countless hours walking them which exercised them and my creative muscle. I can’t tell you how many plot tangles and character snags I worked out in my head while we traversed our neighborhood. They were the Poodle Muses and we had a great relationship.
Last month, after losing Layla to heart and kidney failure in November 2017, we had to bid farewell to Roxie, she of the feisty attitude, sharp baby teeth, and, unfortunately, bloat, caused by a tumor in her stomach.
Losing Layla was tough, no doubt. Losing Roxie nearly devastated me.
We did have two nice long walks the weekend before the Monday she broke down and had seizures and was in so much pain we had no choice but to send her on her way to Layla. That was a month and weeks ago, and yet I tear up sitting here writing about it. Those silly dogs were my muses, and I will be forever grateful to them for it.
UPDATE: I have adopted a puppy from the local humane society.
Her name is Josie. She is a lab mix of some random sort, and is kind of not taking to crate training, prefers to gnaw on fingers and toes most of the time, terrorizes the cats (despite her name being derived from our hope that she will one day integrate the way the poodles did. You know. “Josie and the Pussycats?”) Her nickname is Stitch because when she gets going, well, let’s just say my next resort will be to put on some Elvis tunes in hopes that calms her down. I adore her. And one day, maybe, she’ll help me get my creative mojo back.
Celebrate your muses, fellow scribblers, no matter their shape, form, format, or manifestation. Take from them what you need, and give back, so that they can rejoice when your creativity bears fruit.
No promo this month. Just a few photos of the poodle muses, and the monster baby, Stitch, A.K.A. Josie.
Keep writing y’all. And if that isn’t working for you, take the dog for a walk. I highly recommend it.