Saturday, October 27, 2012

We Are Not A-Muse-d!

Apollo and his Muses

I am pleased to offer you guys a guest post today by a wonderful writer, Carlie Cullen. I asked Carlie if she would tackle a subject that is near and dear to the heart of  artist everywhere. 

How do you handle your Muse?

Those of us who have a Muse to help and guide us in our creative endeavours are truly blessed. They feed our minds with inspiration, help our imagination to take flight and soar unbound and then help us translate it to words on a page or screen.

The one problem is we have no control over when our Muse will pop something into our heads or babble in our ears and leave us with the strong desire to abandon our tasks and pound the keyboard. They seem to have no concept of time and the appropriateness of feeding our fertile imaginations with something wonderful which we yearn to explore; they don’t see or will ignore the fact that there are certain periods when we can’t act on it.

So how do we deal with it?

Picture the scene. You’re at work, perhaps in a meeting, and your Muse suddenly dives in with a brilliant idea for your current W.I.P., a tasty twist for the plot and here’s you surrounded by people and trying to concentrate on the business at hand. Talk about inconvenient! You can’t get up from the table and excuse yourself and you’re unable to answer. You also don’t want to send your Muse away for a while – they don’t like that – they take umbrage and sulk for a few days before coming back to see you again. So now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I’ve had this happen to me a few times and I try to compromise with a placebo. I sure as heck don’t want my Muse to disappear on me for any length of time – that doesn’t bear thinking about. The way I’ve dealt with it in the past has been quite effective for me and my Muse hasn’t left me in a strop. I always carry a notebook with me, no matter where I go, to make notes in for whenever my Muse starts to chatter in my ear, or I see something inspiring, or I overhear a snatch of cool dialogue. Obviously I couldn’t take that particular notebook into business meetings, but I always had a pad and pen of some description.

What I’ve done is thank my Muse for the wonderful idea and jotted a couple of key words down in the margin in a way in which I can instantly recall the premise of the idea, but which wouldn’t mean anything to anyone looking over my shoulder. They would be just random words on sight, but the important thing is I would know what they meant. The idea wouldn’t get lost or clouded by the business matters as I had a note of it (I’ve even been known to write on my palm). I would also gently explain to my Muse that whilst I loved the idea, I was unable to respond because of the people around me and ask if we could talk about it as soon as I was free. This seems to work. My Muse doesn’t take offence at my inability to act on the spot and hovers until I go back to her and ask her more about the idea, which I always do as soon as I’m able. It has been known for me to make a rush trip to the ladies room as soon as a meeting is over just to placate my Muse and allow her to have her say.

Now I have to admit, it hasn’t always worked. There have been times when she’s got so carried away I couldn’t get a word in edgeways to stop her. Again I’ve made a couple of notes and at the first opportunity I’ve gone back to her and asked her to explain it again. I hear a sigh and a “weren’t you paying attention?”, but she almost always tells me again so I’m able to make notes or she’ll wait until I’m home and working on my latest project then guides my writing where she wants it to go.

Word association is also a good method of trying to remember what nuggets of gold your Muse has tried to impart, assuming you’re in a position where you can’t make notes (i.e. if you’re driving and yes that’s happened to me too). When I was writing my novel, I was driving to see my sister when up pops you-know-who and she started excitedly telling me about a plot twist she’d devised. She gave me the name of the character and then proceeded to give me all the details. I was trying not to become the jam in a lorry sandwich so couldn’t take it all in, but the name she came up with resonated and there was something on the back seat of my car which would be the perfect reminder. I used ‘dancing’ as the association word for Liam’s story in the book. Now I can see you scratching your heads trying to figure out the connection – allow me to enlighten you. At the time I was a professional dance teacher and one of my longest-standing pupils had a son, Liam, who I’d also taught. Now can you see where I’m heading?

I’m lucky! My Muse is understanding and doesn’t take offence easily. Not everyone is that fortunate. Some writers have a Muse who is curmudgeonly, others have one who take the slightest wrong word as a personal attack and have a fit of pique and then there are Muses who are like old-fashioned school teachers walking around with a cane they tap on their hands, who want nothing more than to whip you into shape, literally. If your Muse falls into any of the less ‘understanding’ categories, my advice to you is; be prepared to apologise, treat them with respect and don’t, whatever you do, upset them too much. They’ll always come back, but boy can they make you suffer!

So the next time your Muse starts to twitter away at an inopportune moment, stay calm, make a note or word association and be prepared to grovel later.

Thanks so much for you insight, Carlie. I don't know how many times I have been in shower and had my muse started talking to me. If only someone would invent a pad and pen that can be used in water. 

To learn more about Carlie and her works you can find her at: 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin, Cranberry, Cinnamon and Cloves

Right now I could be singing It's the Most Wonderful Time of The Year! Not because it is getting close to Christmas, but because it is October and there is a nip in the air. This is when I love to get in the kitchen and whip up something. In fact, I have some chili doing its thing in the crock-pot as I write.

Today I thought I would share on of my most favorite fall/winter recipes with you. If you are a fan of spiced tea, you should love this.


Russian Tea

1 and 1/2 cups sugar                                   
2 teaspoons whole cloves
3 tablespoons lemon juice                         
2 sticks cinnamon
12oz can frozen orange juice                    
4 regular sized tea bags
1 cup pineapple juice                               
4 cups water

Boil water with cloves and cinnamon for 4 or 5 minutes. Put tea bags in for in for 4 minutes. Pour over sugar. Add all other ingredients and enough water to make one gallon. Serve hot.

I have made this many times over the years but only in the fall and at Christmas. The one suggestion I have is to either get a large mesh tea ball or some cheese cloth to put the cloves and cinnamon in for easy removal. Other wise you will be trying to fish them out with a strainer. Been there, done that.

I hope you guys give it a try and enjoy it as much as I do.

Light and love to all.  Cheers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Excerpt from Heart Search: Lost

Earlier this week a posted an interview from fellow writer Carlie Cullen.Now for your enjoyment I give you an excerpt from her new novel.

I was strolling down a tree-lined lane and as I rounded a bend, there was a tunnel in front of me. As I continued to move closer to it, I noticed a man standing by the entrance; he looked rather familiar, but I was too far away to see him clearly. Something from the depths of my soul resonated and I knew I had to go to him; I quickened my pace. About 80 yards away, I realised it was Joshua and started running towards him screaming out his name, but he was moving backwards into the tunnel. I started sprinting trying desperately to catch up to him, but no matter how fast I ran he still appeared as far away. I could feel despair mounting along with the physical agony of pushing my legs to their limits; tears coursed down my cheeks in frustration and my throat burned from yelling his name.
I was surrounded by shadows which appeared to be closing in on me as I pelted on towards him and fear began to ripple through me like a major earth tremor. Abruptly, I collapsed on to my knees, my poor tired legs unable to sustain the extreme effort any longer; I started to sob and extended a hand forward to him, but he was still too distant. I cried his name again and again; a mantra I hoped would bring him back to me . . .

Through the pain of my dream I became aware of another’s angst and was shocked to discover it was Becky. At first I couldn’t understand where her pain came from and then it seemed to meld with mine; we shared each other’s pain and it was difficult to distinguish where mine ended and hers began.


 To learn more about Carlie and her novels visit her at  
or follow her on twitter

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meet author Carlie Cullen

I had the pleasure and honor to interview author Carlie Cullen, whose new book Heart Search:Lost has its launch today. As a fellow author, I thought it would be fun to pick Carlie's brain about the internal aspects of writing.

CC: Hi Joan, thank you so much for inviting me here today.

JH: Thanks for joining me. Let's just jump right in with the fun stuff. I read on your bio that you were writing stories before you reached double digits. Can you tell us what your first story was about?
CC: Oh goodness, that’s going back a few years. I’ve really got to delve into the memory banks for that one! [Laughs]. Ok, I’ve found it and removed the dust and cobwebs.
It was a fairy tale. A princess had unknowingly upset a wicked witch who started putting evil spells on people in the castle. The princess managed to escape and sought the help of a good fairy. She offered her life in return for the fairy reversing the spells and stopping the wicked witch. The fairy agreed, reversed the spells and imprisoned the witch where she could do no more damage. But she didn’t take the life of the princess on the basis that as she was willing to sacrifice herself for other people, she deserved to live.

JH:Awww, that is a really sweet story. Who would you say most influenced your writing style?
CC: When I first began writing, it was undoubtedly Hans Christian Andersen. It was reading his stories and those of The Brothers Grimm which fostered my love of fantasy.
Although I’ve always loved fantasy, as a teenager and young adult I decided to broaden my horizons and read books from other genres. It taught me there were other ways to tell stories, different elements to draw on and I believe I’ve taken a little something I learned from each of the authors.
My biggest influencers are the following. For world-building, it could be no one but the incomparable J R R Tolkien (although I do think he tended to over-describe in places). For emotion, I learnt a great deal from Virginia Andrews. For tale weaving or storytelling, I found Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon had a great deal to offer. Finally for suspense and unexpected twists, it would have to be Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
I’d like to think I’ve taken what I’ve learnt from each of those amazing authors and applied my own style to it.

JH:In your short story, A Rift in Thyme, (love the play on words) the topic is a muse. Do you have a muse? If so can you describe him or her for us?
CC: Yes, I do have a Muse and part of A Rift in Thyme was actually based on true events.
My Muse is called Catherine (I’m not sure if she spells it with a C or K though) and she lived in the 16th century. She has an oval face, hazel eyes, pale lips and is quite pretty. Her hair is dark brown and hangs in ringlet-type curls down to her knees. She wears a long jade green velvet dress typical of the times and an unusual amulet hangs around her neck.
She was an herbalist and healer. It’s not clear who accused her of witchcraft in her village, but she was ambushed in the woods one day when she was picking herbs and was murdered, driven through by a sword.
I’m told she was drawn to me by my inner strength, purity of spirit, willingness to help others, my writing ability and imagination.

JH:I know that you are a writer of fantasy. Is there another genre that you would like to try? If you did write in another genre, would you continue to use Carlie Cullen or would you use a different pen name?
CC: I’m sometimes drawn toward horror (I read quite a few horror books in my teenage years), but it’s more the paranormal-type horror I liked not the slasher-horror. The idea of mindless violence for the sake of it doesn’t appeal at all. The paranormal has always held a fascination for me so, at some point I might try writing a paranormal horror. I’m also quite fascinated by Steampunk, which is something else I’d be interested in exploring.
I don’t think I would write under a pen name if I published a book in a different genre. I believe by keeping my own name, it would show my versatility as a writer.

JH:As a writer I find there are characters I love and characters that I am not so fond of. Is there a character in Heart Search: Lost you found you were not so fond of?
CC: Actually, yes.  Although she was fun to write and I enjoyed every minute of creating her, I didn’t like Dayna. She was such a bitch, who took great delight in bullying a weaker member of her coven, and showed no remorse for it. When she was severely chastised for her actions she blamed her victim for the trouble she was in and was completely in denial, unable or unwilling to accept she’d brought it all down on her own head.

JH:You are both a writer and an editor. Is there anything that you have learned through your time as editor that has helped you in your own writing?
CC: Absolutely. It’s taught me to watch for duplications of words in the same sentences or close together in paragraphs. Also the over-use of the word ‘that’ is something I’ve become extremely aware of; if I find myself typing it, I stop immediately (or as soon as I finished the sentence) and self-edit, even though I know I shouldn’t. Another thing it’s taught me is to look at how I begin sentences and not having two or three consecutive sentences beginning with the same word.
There’s also been a down side to being an editor as well as a writer, although I’m over it now.
After I’d done a particularly long edit and went back to my own work, I found I was self-editing almost every sentence I wrote and as a result my writing didn’t flow as well as normal – I couldn’t get myself back to the ‘stream of consciousness’ writing where I allowed the story to write itself. I’ve learned a valuable lesson there and besides, when I told my editor, Maria, what was happening, I got quite a telling off for trying to do her job. She reminded me who the editor was where my work was concerned and encouraged me to just allow the words to flow and let her worry about the editing. Maria told me it was my job to tell the story and hers to do the polishing.

JH:Has there ever been an idea for a book, short story or movie that you have watched or read and thought, “Dang, why didn’t I think of that?” If so, what was it?
CC: Yes and no. There was one movie I watched (and ending up buying) where I thought “I could have written that!” ’The Craft’ was about four teenagers experimenting with witchcraft. One of them was a natural witch, a gift she’d inherited from her mother while the other three were powerless in comparison. Once they joined together, things began to happen. One girl went power crazy and allowed it to go to her head, eventually turning against the girl with the real power. Unsurprisingly the natural witch won the battle in the end and the power crazy girl ended up in a straightjacket.
As witchcraft is another area which fascinates me, and I have some witchy books planned for the future, The Craft was definitely something I could see myself writing, but I never actually thought, “Dang, why didn’t I think of that?”

Thanks so much for the great interview, Joan – I really enjoyed myself! 

 Once again I would like to thank Carlie for taking the time out of her schedule to share her thoughts with us. Best of luck on the new book!

Carlie is having a give away!  Go to the address below and enter for your chance to win.


Carlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing. She has been an administrator and marketer all her working life and is also a professional teacher of Ballroom and Latin American dancing.

Carlie has always written in some form or another, but Heart Search: Lost is her first novel. This is being launched 8th October 2012 through Myrddin Publishing Group and work has started on book two: Heart Search: Found. She writes mainly in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for YA, New Adult and Adult.

She is also a professional editor and holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. Their first anthology was published September 2012.
Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.