John H. Stevens (known on Twitter as the Erudite Ogre) was kind enough to give a brief review of Skin Deep Magic on the Three Hoarsemen podcast hosted by SF SIGNAL. He says some nice about the collection. Check out the podcast, which also discusses Guardians of the Galaxy–both the movie and the comic series.
Ah, the elusive Muse.
Muses are the personification of inspiration and are artistically depicted as beautiful women, garbed in flowing gowns, igniting the Artist’s passion and guiding him/her to capture the images in their heads. The concept of the muse as a person or creature comes from Greek mythology, but the idea is entrenched in Western culture to the point that actual living people are retroactively assigned the role: I’m thinking of Wyeth’s Helga and Proust’s Albert(ine). The Muse figure sparks creativity, and goads the artist on. There is a kind of possession that takes place, driving the artist to work at odd hours. She can helpful, a kind of fairy godmother, or a madness-inducing demon. And then there are times when the Muse is dormant. The Muse that cannot be summoned, and drags the artist to self destruction.
In my formative years, I syncretized my childhood imaginary friend with my muse. After all, my imaginary friend actually was female, and, in addition to having witchy powers, she was a writer. I’d often joke that my muse was lazy, distracted, and mean. But as I grew, I began to find the idea of being chained to Inspiration (which is the major aspect of Musedom), both as an idea and a metaphor for writing to be precious and limiting. Inspiration, of course, is very important. We’ve all been compelled to create at the drop of a hat, as soon an image or idea forms in your mind. But the act writing (and other art forms) is mundane and craft-based. Inspiration tends to abandon you at the syntax level. Accordingly, I have changed my conception of the Muse.
Instead of being one person or figure, I make my characters my muse. And I include things like Setting, Mood, and Language as characters. I find that using these things as touchstones, I can (usually) navigate a particularly difficult patch of writing. When you dialogue with your text, ask questions, make it a living thing that you interact with, it takes shape. Then you are no longer at the mercy of the temperamental whims of your muse.