Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is it a muse, or is it a memory?

If a muse is a guiding spirit or a source of inspiration, as tells us, then my muse must be a nerdy guy who wants to be a hunk. "I can be him," my muse will tell me. "I just need a great body, longer hair, and cat eyes."

My heroes, for the most part, are accounted for: I know exactly who and why they inspired me, but that usually only concerns their physical appearance. The hero of Virgin (June 2011) is based on two different people. He has the face, coloring, and physique of the fellow to your left, and the name and height of another. His personality, however, comes from my muse.

My heroines have often been based on ladies I know personally--never a model or an actress. Sometimes it's planned and sometimes it comes as a surprise, but they are all based in reality in one way or another, though it may be my muse who suggests them to me.

You often hear that muses are fickle creatures; bailing out on you in your time of need, or sending you off on a tangent, but other times, that spirit or imaginative force will take you exactly where you need to go. It may send you to places you've never been, or will sometimes take you back to revisit others. For the most part, the strange aliens, secondary characters, planets, and animals that populate my books come from a source buried deeply in my subconscious in the form of memories.

To illustrate this, a few days ago I was working on the opening chapters of the eighth book in the Cat Star Chronicles series when, for some unfathomable reason, I decided to introduce a species of alien hermaphrodites. Now, this is a concept I haven't explored before, but it triggered a memory that is at least forty years old. I was buying ice cream in a shop somewhere, and to this day, I couldn't tell you if the person behind the counter was was male or female. When I remembered him/her, at that moment, I could not only envision a new character, but a whole new world and its inhabitants.

My muse can also visit my dreams. Last night, I dreamed that I was on a bus with my son, and a tiny little woman got on board. She was very alien-looking, with huge dark eyes, fish-like lips, and very slender, delicate limbs. In my dream, Sam asked me if she was real, and I replied that I was pretty sure she was. I don't often remember dreams, but that mental picture is as vivid to me now as if I had actually seen her with my own eyes, and yet another alien species has come to life.

My nerdy muse will often keep me going late into the night, but other times he will smack me upside the head and say, "Go to bed!" It happens so suddenly that I often crash into bed (it's right next to my desk) fully clothed and sometimes with my shoes on. I usually remember to take my glasses off, but not always. Sometimes I fall asleep, but other times I lie there awake, still thinking about what I've been writing. Being horizontal helps my muse to reach into my mind--a mind no longer focused on how cold my feet are or how heavy my eyelids might be. Most of the time I get up after a bit, write some more, and THEN go to bed for real.

Like right now.

Good night, sweet muse. I'll see you in my dreams.


  1. I like the picture. I reallly reallly like the picture lol. My muse is the type who likes to leave me for days on end then smack me upside the head when I'm working and can't write. I love the new species you introduce in your series and I always do my best to mentally see them too :D

  2. Good morning, ladies! My muse kept me up late again last night. He's such a pushy little bugger....

  3. Cheryl, you crack me up! Every time!!

    But I agree with you. A muse may be an individual or image of some sort, or even a memory. Yet always, to me, there is something magical about it. Where the ideas and diverse characters come from in a writer's mind is strange and wonderful. "Normal" people may see these oddities around them but they don't translate that into a whole story with plotlines, species, etc. THAT is what is so remarkable to me.

    Thanks for another entertaining post! See you in a few days. :)

  4. Cheryl,
    I just picked myself off the floor.
    I hate when my chair ejects me like that. BUT I think your Muse is spiking your food or drinks.
    Or you are possessed. What evers happening. It works for me.

  5. OMG! That explains it!!! I'm possessed by my muse!

  6. What a wonderful musing on the muse, Cheryl.

    And about the muse telling you to "go to bed, now!" then keeping you awake by giving you new ideas once you get there--the same thing happened to me, repeatedly, this last week.

    I'd get back up, write some more, and then wham, the same thing would happen again.

    BTW--You're working on #11? Your prolificalness (if that's a word) astounds me!

  7. Thanks, MM, but I'm not that prolifical yet! This is only number 8!

    I'm glad to hear that other muses keep their writers awake. Mine drives me crazy sometimes!

  8. Wonderful post, Cheryl! I love hearing about other peoples' muses. I wrote about my hot, verbally abusive male muse on my blog: My Muse Strangles Me.

    Your muse sounds fascinating -- complex, engaging, nerdy, dreamy, aggressive...and I laughed out loud when I read about him smacking you into bed!

    ~Sandy Ackers

  9. Hi Cheryl,
    BIG THANX for the eye-candy!

    How cool that you are writing about a race that is non-gender specific. I was watching a program on Australia the other night and they talked about a variety of fish (I think a Wrasse) that changes gender. Now there's an idea for an alien!

    You and your muse just need to keep up the GREAT WORK! Looking forward to Hero.


  10. Good post Cheryl:) It connected with me.

    I'm thinking that anybody with a creative streak (author or non-author) has a muse of some kind IF we acknowledge it and let our minds wander about at will but really, I have no idea if that's true or not.

    I was gifted with a muse of sorts but not in any physical imaginative him, no her, no form sitting on my shoulder nor verbal communication but rather an ability to let my mind see what isn't there YET in a space or working on a project (which covers a multitude of mediums). The words you used, "imaginative force", described the process perfectly as applied to me working with my hands rather than conjuring a story.

    I love being in that imaginative force, whether it's a moment or hours. I become oblivious of everything around me and find it exciting, comfortable and later, often exhausting but ultimately satisfying. I rather imagine it's the same as an author who gets in a groove and becomes "one" with her story...I become "one" with a project (I'm visually inclined and like to work with my hands...if you couldn't tell;)

  11. LOL! I can honestly say my muse has never tried to strangle me, Sandy! Yours sounds very interesting!

    You're welcome, AC! I'm not sure how big a role this species will play in the book, but there's always the next one!

    That creative drive can take many forms, Nancy, and I've been very "hands on" in many of my projects, too. You really can get lost in them!

  12. Cheryl...Actually I thought about you recently when I was using my sewing machine...about when you were making your recent outfits for the RT Convention. I smiled. Until then I hadn't used my own machine in years! That's changed in the last few weeks and it's kind of cool to reacquaint myself with that skill.

  13. Loved the post, Cheryl!! I truly understand what you said about the 'imaginative force' that inspires and goads us to be creative---and I agree with Nancy about the way it can certainly work for other creative processes as well.

    It certainly works for you!!!

  14. I know what you mean, Nancy. I hadn't done any sewing for a while either. It's nice to realize you haven't forgotten how!

    I agree that creativity takes many forms, Suzy. Writing is just the one I've been engaging in lately!

  15. Wow! Your new alien species sounds fab, Cheryl. Can't wait to read it!