Letting Go on Memory Lane

I was wandering down Memory Lane this afternoon. Maybe it’s because it’s almost the end of the year. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (but still never going to admit to being a grown up, because that is a trap, plain and simple), or maybe it’s just because sometimes the past calls and beckons like a Siren on a rocky shoal. Then, again, maybe, the reason I took a leisurely stroll down Memory Lane was because of the WIP.
I found myself thinking about dogs that I’ve long since sent to the Rainbow Bridge, most with the last, tearful reminder that I will never forget them. I may forget the registered names, but I will never forget their call names. All of those dogs took a piece of my heart with them when they left—some just took a larger piece.
One I sent to the Bridge with the admonition not to wait for me, because his breeders had already gone before him. I told Boots not to wait on me, but to go find Fran and Herschel. As usual, Boots did things his way. I believe he found a way to come back to me. There are times that Vander scares me with just how much like Boots he acts.
And, I started to think about Lena the First.
Lena the First

(I had two beautiful tri bitches that I named Lena, both from Mary Murphy of Lil Murph Collies.) Lena the First was my reserve queen. If reserve points counted toward a championship, she would have been finished five times over. Lena was my first, real show dog. However, I didn’t own her. She owned me and it was my honor to be the human for that regal, arrogant animal. Lena liked people, but she never went over-board with displays of affection, as benefitted one of her stature. There was one, though that she loved beyond all reasoning, and it wasn’t me. I never doubted for a moment that she loved me. But, the person she loved the most was the young man I was supposed to marry. Whenever he came to the house, she turned into a black puddle of oozing, overwhelming fawning.

To this day, I think she blamed me when he was no longer a part of our lives. To a certain extent, she was right. When she went to the Rainbow Bridge, she truly took most of my heart with her. She was my friend, my companion, and some swore, my familiar. Meeting her eyes was looking into the eyes of a soul very old, very wise, and very, very self-assured. When she died, it took me years to even contemplate having another tri rough bitch at my house. And then, one night, after the annual Illiana Collie Fanciers show, I was at Mary Murphy’s house and she wanted me to look at her puppies. She had three separate litters. I looked at her puppies, and they were all beautiful. I stopped at the kennel run with the last litter in it.
There was a little tri rough bitch sitting in the corner. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t intimidated by her litter mates. She just didn’t want to be climbed on and pushed around by them as they clamored for my attention. After a moment, she got up and walked through the mob of her litter mates and they parted for her as if they were giving way to royalty. Collie puppies are the happiest, friendliest puppies on the planet. Their tails never stop wagging.
Lena the Second

This little bitch climbed up on the fencing and looked me dead in the eye. Her tail was not wagging and she held herself with such dignity and arrogance that it took my breath away. The look on her face demanded that I pick her up, which I did. I looked into those eyes and started to cry. I knew that soul looking at me. I knew her from years before. The look I received as much as said, “Did you really think I wouldn’t find a way back to you?”
I carried her over to Mary and asked what she wanted for the puppy I held. Mary asked me why I wanted a pet puppy. I said I wanted her and what did she want so I could take her home. Mary told me her price, I said, “Done,” went and got my check book and wrote the check before Mary changed her mind. Almost an hour later, Mary realized I hadn’t been holding the pet puppy from the litter, but her pick of all three litters. I told her that was too bad, she gave me a price, I had written the check, she was mine. We came to an agreement on a co-ownership for that little tri bitch, and Lena the Second went home with me. She was registered as Lil Murph’s Grand Larceny and she became a champion before she was two years old.
And what do my collies who’ve gone to the Bridge have to do with the WIP? When I first conceived the idea behind Steel Hearts I knew that the hero had to be someone with a strong, protective background, someone unafraid to look death in the eye. So, naturally, the hero became a Navy SEAL (and, no matter how much the Marine Corps like to brag they’re the toughest, and as much as I respect those “jarheads” who are always first in and last out—they ain’t got nothing on the SEALs—sorry, gentlemen), and after he resigned his commission (because not only was he a SEAL, he was a graduate of USNA), he became a Federal Marshal working in the Federal Witness Security Program (commonly referred to as the Witness Protection Program).
Ariel view USNA 
I needed to talk to that young man Lena the First oozed all over because my recollections of his time at USNA were rather fuzzy. Over the years, in spite of a period of almost five years that we didn’t speak at all, we reconnected many years ago and have remained friends ever since. At least once a year, we talk on the phone. We converse via Facebook. But, for this, I needed a long conversation. Our conversation veered into other things—family, kids, grandkids, recollections of the time we dated. (And, in case that gentleman in question reads this blog, no, I do not own a bikini any more. I haven’t worn one in public in better than thirty years.)
I made the comment on Facebook while writing the WIP (which I guess isn’t accurate now that it’s a complete rough draft) that parts of this novel were cathartic. I won’t say what parts are cathartic. I won’t even verify which parts are if asked. But, by writing Steel Hearts, I finally let go of a lot of things. It’s a strange feeling.

Favorite Holiday Movies

For my Christmas blog, I’ve decided to do a top ten list—my ten favorite holiday movies.  So, in no particular order, here they are, complete with links.
1.      Three Godfathers: John Wayne in a Christmas movie? You betcha. This one was another of the Wayne/Ford works that stands the test of time. Here’s the description from Amazon: Fugitive bank robbers Robert (John Wayne), William (Harry Carey Jr.) and Pedro (Pedro Armendariz) stand at a desert grave. Caring for the newborn infant of the woman they just buried will ruin any chance of escape. But they won’t go back on their promise to her. They won’t abandon little Robert William Pedro. Director John Ford’s Western retelling of the Biblical Three Wise Men tale remains a scenic and thematic masterpiece. Ford adds color to his feature-film palette, capturing stunning vistas via cinematographer Winton Hoch, who would win two of his three Academy Awards for Ford films. Again, populist-minded Ford asserts that even men of dissolute character can follow that inner star of Bethlehem to their own redemption.
2.      Die Hard: Let’s see, Bruce Willis as John McClaine, the iconic line of “Yippee kiyay, mother-f@^%#r,” and a younger Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. What wasn’t to like? From Amazon: This seminal 1988 thriller made Bruce Willis a star and established a new template for action stories: “Terrorists take over a (blank), and a lone hero, unknown to the villains, is trapped with them.” In Die Hard, those bad guys, led by the velvet-voiced Alan Rickman, assume control of a Los Angeles high-rise with Willis’s visiting New York cop inside. The attraction of the film has as much to do with the sight of a barefoot mortal running around the guts of a modern office tower as it has to do with the plentiful fight sequences and the bond the hero establishes with an LA beat cop. Bonnie Bedelia plays Willis’s wife, Hart Bochner is good as a brash hostage who tries negotiating his way to freedom, Alexander Godunov makes for a believable killer with lethal feet, and William Atherton is slimy as a busybody reporter. Exceptionally well directed by John McTiernan. –Tom Keogh
3.      The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: Dr. Suess at his best. Narrated by Boris Karloff (yes, THAT Boris Karloff), this Christmas classic is a perennial favorite in my house, and the grand-daugther and I can often be found watching it any time of year. The songs are catchy—“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…” I mean, seriously, how much more of an insult can you hand anyone than to call them a toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce?
4.      It’s a Wonderful Life: Yes, George’s disbelief in Clarence can carry too far, but this is a lovely, happy movie full of uplifting messages. Every life touches so many others, in ways that we often never see. From Amazon: Now perhaps the most beloved American film, It’s a Wonderful Life was largely forgotten for years, due to a copyright quirk. Only in the late 1970s did it find its audience through repeated TV showings. Frank Capra’s masterwork deserves its status as a feel-good communal event, but it is also one of the most fascinating films in the American cinema, a multilayered work of Dickensian density. George Bailey (played superbly by James Stewart) grows up in the small town of Bedford Falls, dreaming dreams of adventure and travel, but circumstances conspire to keep him enslaved to his home turf. Frustrated by his life, and haunted by an impending scandal, George prepares to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. A heavenly messenger (Henry Travers) arrives to show him a vision: what the world would have been like if George had never been born. The sequence is a vivid depiction of the American Dream gone bad, and probably the wildest thing Capra ever shot (the director’s optimistic vision may have darkened during his experiences making military films in World War II). Capra’s triumph is to acknowledge the difficulties and disappointments of life, while affirming–in the teary-eyed final reel–his cherished values of friendship and individual achievement. It’s a Wonderful Life was not a big hit on its initial release, and it won no Oscars (Capra and Stewart were nominated); but it continues to weave a special magic. –Robert Horton
5.      Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Seriously, if you’ve never seen this, crawl out from under your rock and rent it. Santa is a bit of a tool (sorry, Santa, just calling them as I see them) in this classic and incredibly mean to Rudolph and his family, but as with so many other Christmas stories, there are excellent messages for kids of any age.  Added bonus, Burl Ives narrating and singing.
6.      The Little Drummer Boy: You may have to search to find this as it was originally recorded because the versions offered on Amazon are not the best quality. However, the story of Aaron, the little boy who refuses to smile after his parents are murdered and is taken in by three kings travelling to Bethlehem to give their gifts to the newborn king, is beautiful. When Aaron’s small lamb is struck by a Roman charioteer careening through the streets, Aaron offers up the only gift he can give to the newborn king. He plays his drum for him and Aaron’s small lamb is miraculously healed. I cry every time I watch this.
7.      Miracle on 34th Street: From Amazon: Delightful Christmas fantasy of a charming old man who believes he is Santa Claus, and the wonderful change he brings to the people around him. This perennial holiday classic is on many short-lists of the all-time great Christmas movies. The film just oozes with warm-hearted humor. Very young Natalie Wood sparkles as Susan, who learns to stop being so grown up, and enjoy childhood, with all its wide-eyed wonder. Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, and lives the role. He totally connects with the kiddies who visit “Santa” at Macy’s department store. The brief scene with the little Dutch refugee girl is a definite emotional high point in this movie. The combined reaction of relief and wonder in the child’s face as she visits Santa and finds he speaks her language is memorable. Gene Lockhart as the harried judge, and William Frawley as his street-wise political advisor provide the needed comic relief to keep the court-room segments from becoming too overwhelmed by lawyers and their tactics. Even Jack Albertson shows up as an ingenious postal clerk who helps Kringle solve his legal problem. The on-location scenes filmed on the streets of New York assist the viewer in suspending disbelief. An enthusiastic cast, crisp direction by George Seaton, a sentimental holiday message, and great humor make this movie a solid holiday treat for the entire family.
8.      A Christmas Carol: This remake with George C. Scott (Patton) as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is incredible. It is one of the best versions and telling of the tale. From Amazon: George C. Scott gives one of the greatest performances I have ever seen an actor give; he truly becomes Ebenezer Scrooge to the fullest degree possible. Scott can say more with just the slightest hint of a facial movement than many actors can say during the course of an entire movie. All of the performers here are excellent, bringing to life adored characters such as Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and Scrooge’s nephew Fred. All four spirits are remarkable, none more so than Scrooge’s old partner Jacob Marley; having Marley’s jaw drop after untying the burial cloth holding his mouth closed is an important aspect of the story and certainly does make an impression on the viewer. This is just one example of the moviemakers’ faithfulness to Charles Dickens’ original story; another would be the inclusion of the two miserable children, Ignorance and Want, beneath the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present. This timeless tale works extremely well on its own, but the unsurpassed acting skills of Scott make it almost more than real. The change wrought in him during the course of the night, as he changes from a man of crass materialism and unkindness to a repentant soul pleading for a chance to change his ways, is powerfully presented and really touches the viewer emotionally. The simple happiness revealed in the lives of Bob Cratchit and others are as heart-warming as the forgotten mistakes and pains of a younger Scrooge are agonizing.
9.      The Bishop’s Wife:  From Amazon: No classic holiday collection should be without this joyous tale. It stars a divine Cary Grant, a lovely Loretta Young, and a “doubting” David Niven. As Christmas approaches, Bishop Henry Broughm is feeling the pressure of raising money to build a Cathedral. The money is out there, a wealthy woman has volunteered to contribute what’s needed to complete the task. But…there’s a catch….it must be done her way…and Henry must decide whether to accept and put his principles aside or decline and have no Cathedral. He is so preoccupied with this problem that Julia, his wife feels she is losing him. Henry prays for guidance…and it arrives…in the form of one dapper angel…”Dudley”. Dudley has got his work cut out for him with this assignment. Henry is a tough case. But along the way of trying to enlighten the Bishop of the joys of life(not to mention all the hungry people the money could feed),Dudley, played by Cary Grant touches the lives of all those around him. Most of the women are simply in awe of his presence, an aging history scholar(played impeccably by Monty Woolley)finds a renewed zest for life and even a cynical cab driver is reformed by the mere presence of Dudley. But can Dudley get through to Henry in time to restore his wonderful marriage to Julia?….Can even an Angel resist the charms of Loretta Young? You’ll be smiling all the way through this touching, classic Christmas story finding out.
The supporting cast are legends in their own rights, as well.
10.  The Polar Express: From Amazon: Destined to become a holiday perennial, The Polar Express also heralded a brave new world of all-digital filmmaking. Critics and audiences were divided between those who hailed it as an instant classic that captures the visual splendor and evocative innocence of Chris Van Allsburg’s popular children’s book, and those who felt that the innovative use of “performance capture”–to accurately translate live performances into all-digital characters–was an eerie and not-quite-lifelike distraction from the story’s epic-scale North Pole adventure. In any case it’s a benign, kind-hearted celebration of the yuletide spirit, especially for kids who have almost grown out of their need to believe in Santa Claus. Tom Hanks is the nominal “star” who performs five different computer-generated characters, but it’s the visuals that steal this show, as director Robert Zemeckis indulges his tireless pursuit of technological innovation. No matter how you respond to the many wonders on display, it’s clear that The Polar Express represents a significant milestone in the digital revolution of cinema. If it also fills you with the joy of Christmas (in spite of its Nuremberg-like rally of frantic elves), so much the better. –Jeff Shannon
Any of your holiday favorites I’ve missed? Let me know…and in the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may all the blessings of the season be yours.

My Grown-Up Christmas List

On Facebook, I’ve been driving my friends crazy with a daily posting what I want Santa to put under my tree. It started out as a joke and I will continue to post something like that on a daily basis until Christmas is over. The joke I posted was that I wish Santa would leave Henry Cavill (the really pretty eye candy from the Showtime/BBC series The Tudors and the summer blockbuster Man of Steel) under my tree. I know it’s a joke and I’m happily married, but there are some things I can admire. As a friend said, “Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”
But that joke has me thinking about what I really want under my Christmas tree. Here’s my “grown-up Christmas list” as the song goes.
I wish that as a society we could all agree that it isn’t guns that kill people, but people bent on causing destruction, harm, and death are what kill people. Gun violence is a symptom of the issue, not the issue. We have become a society that doesn’t value life. Life is cheap. We have reduced people in our society to what they wear, who they date, and how much money they possess. Life has become about possessions, not living. People of my age grew up playing “cowboys and Indians” and “cops and robbers” and most of us would never turn a gun on anyone simply to harm another person. My children grew up playing video games, and some of the ones my son played were incredibly violent, but he would never consider turning a gun on helpless, defenseless people with the sole intent to create as much death as possible. I’m tired of gun owners being held responsible for the actions of people that have taken it upon themselves to commit murder and mayhem with a weapon, yet we cannot hold a religion and its followers to the same standard when every terrorist attack on this country was committed by followers of a “religion of peace.” Or how about this: no one is trying to make it harder to get a license to drive a car, yet drunk drivers kill more people annually than people wielding guns kill.
I wish as a society we would get rid of the political correctness bullshit. It is total and complete bullshit and the only thing bullshit is good for is fertilizer. Cities can’t have a Nativity scene because it crosses the line between Church and State. I’m not supposed to say “Merry Christmas” because I might offend someone. The television network A & E just suspended Phil Robertson from the juggernaut show Duck Dynasty because Phil voiced a personal opinion in an interview that had NOTHING to do with A & E about his thoughts on homosexuality. Phil’s entitled to his opinion; unfortunately, A & E didn’t think so. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t care who you choose to sleep with, so long as your choice of sexual partners involves neither children nor animals, it is none of MY damn business. In that same vein I’m tired of double standards. Had a gay activist said the same thing about straight people that Phil Robertson said, other than the reported interview, nothing would have been said or thought about it.
I wish we truly could have religious tolerance, but as long as there are fundamentalists of any flavor, it won’t happen. As long as there are fundamentalists shouting that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe that there is only one way to heaven, there won’t be religious tolerance. (BTW, hop on the bus, I’m driving this highway to hell!) As long as there are religions that believe a woman is not as good as a man and must be subservient to him, there won’t be religious tolerance. Guess what…your god is no better than my god, and She is all the same god. Some of you just see Her face very differently than I see it. Whether you see that god as Jehovah, Jesus of Nazareth, Al’lah, Isis, Ishtar, or Hekate–all are just the many faces of the divinity that resides within all of us. Until we can understand that there is divinity within each and every one of us, there will not be religious tolerance. 
I want the attacks by animal rights activists to stop. If you choose not to have a pet, that is your choice. I think your life is a lot emptier than mine, but that’s just my opinion. If you choose not to eat meat, that’s also your choice. More power to you. However, there are those of us who enjoy a thick, juicy steak. I don’t try to dictate to you; please don’t think to dictate to me.
I wish I would wake up Christmas morning and learn that the Congress of the United States had actually come to its senses and is not making cuts in the retirement benefits and the pay and other benefits for our military, both active and retired. Just because those members of our military signed a blank check to Uncle Sam doesn’t mean they should be bled dry. Many of the people in this country are members of our armed forces or have family/close friends who are serving/have served. For those of us who are offended by this misuse, disrespect, and mistreatment of our military, the members of Congress need to realize that we will remember in the midterm elections next year.
I wish I would wake up Christmas morning and learn that people in this country have finally woken up and realized that the government cannot and should not ever be responsible to care for them from cradle to grave, but I don’t hold out any hopes for that. (My odds of finding Superman under my tree are a whole lot better.) Unfortunately, we have become a society that has lost our ability to be trail-blazers, pioneers, and be self-sufficient. We are a nation of sheep, led by wolves.
Let the flames begin. While I wait with my asbestos suit on, I’ll leave you with this:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Completely Random Thoughts

It’s pretty sad when I know I need to get a blog post up and I’m so fresh out of ideas that I asked for suggestions on my personal Facebook page. (Does anyone see my head hitting my desk?)
Someone suggested writing about pie. I like pie. Cherry is my favorite. I make one mean cherry pie, too. Just ask my family.
Someone else suggested I write about my teaching philosophy. I’m not sure I have one anymore. I admit, quite readily, that I am burnt at both ends. Halfway through this semester, I had to step away from a job/profession that I love because of health issues. I feel as if I have failed the students who relied on me. I’m not sure if I want to teach again in a formal, classroom setting.
Someone else suggested that I leave the blog post open ended, but I don’t know how to do that.
Maybe, I’ll just babble about whatever comes into my head for the next twenty to thirty minutes—kinda like a stream of consciousness writing thingy. (How’s that for technical writing terms from an English major?)
It’s snowing here in Indiana tonight. I also read that it snowed for the first time in Cairo, Egypt in 112 years. Jerusalem is buried under over a foot of snow. While I know that the term was changed to “climate change” when the facts just wouldn’t line up with the scare tactics of “global warming”, I want to send a tweet to Al Gore and ask him how that global warming thing was supposed to work. Weren’t we supposed to be broiling by now?
There was another school shooting today. Needless to say, some of my liberal friends immediately jumped on the band wagon of wanting more gun control. Really? How’s that gun control thing working out for Chicago? One of them even said that the second amendment should be changed. Sure. While we’re at it, let’s just overturn the whole Bill of Rights. Then I won’t have to worry about posting any more blogs, because there won’t be freedom of speech, either.
Did you hear about the billboard that some atheist society purchased in Times Square, wanting to take “Christ” out of Christmas? While I know that the origins of the celebration of the winter solstice predate Christianity, and I am often very, very amused by fundamentalists of any flavor, and even more amused at how Christianity stole at least 90% of the traditions of the faith from the pre-existing pagan beliefs, I wanted to ask that atheist society if that was the best thing they could spend their money on. Really? You couldn’t find a charity to donate the money to, so that you actually practiced what you were preaching, that the holiday season is about giving, and love, and light, and good will to others.
I am also delaying writing the last chapter to the new WIP because my inner child is throwing a tantrum and doesn’t want to say “goodbye” to her newest, bestest friends. I was asked the other day by someone of all the books I’ve written, which one was my favorite. That person then said that was probably like asking me to pick a favorite child. How very true. Writing is rather like having a kid, without the hospital bill, most of the time. But, even though I LOVE the characters in the WIP, I’ll always be partial to The Devil’s Own Desperado because it was the first one I published. Rather like that first love you just don’t get completely over. My favorite, though, would have to be the one on my editor’s desk right now, going through the second round of edits. Smolder on a Slow Burn has been with me for a long, long time. It started out as a contemporary years (and I do mean years) ago. When the Muse dropped the idea for NaNoWriMo on my head last November, I knew EXACTLY who the main characters were. I pulled A.J. and Alli from that contemporary and put them into a western historical. I have been in love with Major A.J. Adams, Jr. and Allison Webster for more than twenty years. The fact I could take him out of a Marine Corps uniform and slide that CSA cavalry officer’s frock coat onto him worked out perfectly.
I’m totally geeking out over the movie Man of Steel. Yes, I know, I’m a little late to the party here, but one of the reasons I didn’t want to see it originally was I just had a really hard time seeing some Brit as an American icon. Another reason was Christopher Reeve would always be my Superman. (We just won’t mention the last two of the four that he did in the role because not even Chris Reeve in that adorable spandex suit could save those things.) The reboot of the Superman franchise about five years ago with Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel in Superman Returns was a real disappointment. Please note, I said Christopher Reeve would always be my Superman. Does anyone have any idea how hard it is to eat words put onto a computer monitor? At least if I had printed that statement on paper, I could choke it down with some salt and water. HOLY CROW ON CRACKERS, BATMAN! What Zach Snyder did in the reboot of Superman with Man of Steel still has me reeling (and that’s not even mentioning “that Brit” as the most iconic of American icons).  
And, I’m still trying to figure out who to cheer for in the annual Army/Navy football game. I think what I will do, as we’ll probably be snowed in tomorrow (or today, as it is after midnight, now) is have my own movie marathon. Now the decision is what marathon? Star Wars, the Harry Potter movies, Supes, or maybe—some Pirates. I hate making decisions.

Dealing with a Demanding Muse

I ran away from the Muse for the better part of the day about two weeks ago. I pretty much said She can write whatever She wanted that day, but not to expect me to transcribe it any time soon. I then popped a movie into the DVD player of my lap top and watched The Searchers, again. I watched My Fair Lady. And, then, to make sure the Muse knew I was not speaking to Her, I watched parts of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (Shut up, Muse…not going there, ever again.)
Not exactly how I see Her…
I was ignoring my Muse. I was trying to shut Her up. I was beyond infuriated with Her. She is a vile, evil creature and whatever depths of Hell spawned Her, they can take Her back. In case no one has noticed, I speak of that creative impulse as my Muse, and I often see Her as something to be revered and nurtured, but for several days, I did not seen Her in this light.
I’ve stated before that my Muse is a fickle Bitch. She will sometimes take a hiatus for as much as a year. Once time, She didn’t speak to me for almost two years. Usually, when She is on hiatus, She will leave a small creative spark with me, so the fire doesn’t go out, per se. The last two times She left, She took everything with Her. After I completed The Devil’s Own Desperado, She left. I had nothing—my creative self felt like an old, dried up corn husk, dead and withered.
Then, last year for NaNoWriMo, She breezed into my head again, and literally dropped a whole book into my lap. Or was it onto my head? It doesn’t matter—I had the whole story of Smolder on a Slow Burn in my head. I started writing and the words poured out of me. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t do anything but write. If I tried to sleep, I saw the next scene playing out in my head, as if I was watching a movie. I had to get up and go write that scene. I swear the whole time I was writing, I could hear Her laughing at me. When I tried to sleep, if I didn’t get up and write that next scene, I was terrified the whole thing would be taken from me.
About a week later, I had a 200 plus page, more than 60K word rough draft completed. And, She was gone. Not even a “Back in a while” or a single postcard from the edge.

And then about a month ago, She was BAAAAAAACK! And, the Bitch did it to me again, dropped a whole novel onto my head. I got to know the confines of my office space very well. Only this time, what She gave me made me feel cheapened and used.
I argued with Her. Didn’t do a bit of good. I refused to write what She stuck in my head. Sleep became more elusive than unicorns and hen’s teeth. I tried drowning Her out with music on the iPod. She just kept surfacing through the music, as if it had been written specifically for what She wanted me to write.

Yeah, I wrote fan fiction starring this scoundrel
I gave up and I started writing. I wrote what She wanted me to write and the whole time I was trying to reason with Her that I DO NOT write fan fiction any more, and certainly not fan fiction with the requisite Mary Sue character. (Back when I was a teenager, I wrote a piece of fan fiction set in the Star Wars universe, and shortly after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out on DVD I did borrow Snape for a little while…I would like to think that in that AU world, I gave Snape a little more happiness than he’d ever really had in Ms. Rowling’s universe.) Apparently, I still do write fan fiction. I will readily admit, there is some incredible fan fiction out there, and some of it is written better than the works they are created from. (Case in point would be the 50 Shades of Gray series, which started as fan fiction to Twilight.) I tried to argue with Her, even while I was writing, that I felt cheapened and used. And, She ignored me. (Surprise, surprise, surprise…)
And, fan fiction for this one, too. 

While checking Facebook while writing this thing, I found an article on one of the writing sites I follow that talked about the kinds of writers block and how to overcome them. One of the first ones talked about the well going dry, which is what I feel like every time my Muse goes away. The suggestion to bring back the creative fire—write fan fiction.
Say WHAT? (No, I just did NOT read that! I will not encourage that Bitch.)
Write fan fiction.(Does everyone see my head hitting my desk, repeatedly?) The thing with fan fiction is that it can force a writer outside of the comfort zone (staying in the comfort zone is another way to bring about writers block) and make the writer literally write differently. The world comes premade, with characters already there, with all their foibles, strengths, and idiosyncrasies. The challenge to the writer is to write that/those characters in character. If you’re going to write a scenario where Han Solo leaves Leia, it better be a damn good scenario, because even though he’s a bit rough around the edges, his loyalty to those he loves was proven again and again both in the movies and in the spin-off novels. (Oops…okay, I will claim when I wrote that piece of fan fiction, I was all of seventeen.)
And when I finally typed “the end” to this current piece of fan fiction, I realized that there are gems I can glean from this drivel my Muse and I created. Some of the scenes are gut wrenching (try almost killing the hero with a hand napped dagger), some are light-hearted, and some have created a private joke for me and a few of my friends when I told them what I was writing and those friends followed the story creation. Duct tape, anyone?

I still wanted to wring my Muse’s ethereal neck. However, this time, the piece of fan fiction was just the warm-up. I hadn’t been away from the fan-fiction for more than two days when She woke me up from a sound sleep and said, “Here’s what you need to do with that.”
 I’m stepping out of my comfort zone for the new WIP. It’s a contemporary romance. There aren’t any cowboys (well, as long as you don’t count a federal marshal who has the nickname “Cowboy”), no cattle, no one saddles up and rides into town, and the weapons are not carried in a holster tied down low (they’re actually in shoulder holsters).
I’m about 40K into this WIP and I’ve had a few black moments written into this one. The blackest moment is coming and I will admit I’m not looking forward to writing it. Again, I’m avoiding Her and the WIP. But, I can’t put it off any longer. I need to go double tap a villain and make a “happily ever after.” That might be the real reason I’m avoiding Her. I’m not sure I want to let this couple go.