Thank You and Goodbye …

First things first … I am so, so sorry.
I know we’ve around this block before. I wrote about, I asked about it, I tried powering on … I tried.
But I can’t anymore. I have nothing left in me. I have tried for years to bring more people on board with this magazine, this vision and dream, I have tried editing and formatting anthologies alone and failed miserably, I have physically hurt myself thinking of being nothing but a failure to the existence of what should have been Musae Mosaic.
The dream was perfect. The dreamer was not.
Maybe it was youth, naivety, maybe it was pure inexperience, I don’t know. I just know it has turned me into what I never wanted to be.
A failure.
The very stark truth of the matter is that I am empty. Life being what it is right now, not living my own life, not being able to do more with my family, being limited by realities … it has maxed me out, through and through. But that’s okay, because we’ve begun living other adventures. We’ve been studying and learning, dreaming of a stronger future for us, dreaming of working with artists forever, we’ve fallen in love, we’ve begun planning futures, we’ve begun a wonderful journey forward that is a light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel.
A six year long tunnel.

During that six years, my only joy was this world that I could share with you. Friday Phrases, 200 Word Tuesdays and Musae Mosaic.
During those six years, I made more memories than I thought I would. I remember all of our interviews with the most amazing writers I could ever know. I remember 200WT stories from years ago that are still fresh in my mind, because I loved them so, so, so much. I remember people who wrote for #FP in the days when I just started out, and who were with me when I took over. Some of them are still here, some of them have moved on, but I remember. And I loved them all.
I still do.
But this isn’t something I can breathe life into anymore, because I’m not saving any life for myself and in the end, it doesn’t change anything. There’s still no fresh stories on the magazine, there are no anthologies, there’s very little engagement, very few of us staying for the things that were so fresh and beautiful two years ago. I tried doing this all alone, and I was very much outnumbered by the things I wanted to do and couldn’t.
In the end, it’s like throwing a party for an empty room.
During these six years, however … you’ve all made so many memories for me. You’ve been there and supported me and my family through our darkest, darkest days. You’ve shared your stories with me and our beautiful community for all this time … you’ve made every Friday that rolled around for six years magical for me. I will never be able to put into words what an honor it was, to be your #FP host, to be able to share your #200WT’s …
I will never forget the happy days I was able to share with everyone here.
Thank you for all these years of love and support, and sharing.
Thank you with every fibre of my being, from the bottom of my heart, thank you with everything that I am.

But now … it’s also time to bid my fond farewell to everything on Musae Mosaic. I need to find my strength again. Find myself, my future, and all the beautiful things that are going to be in it.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to be far away. My life story will still be documented in painstaking detail over how much coffee I drink, and how much cats I regrettably don’t have, and how much I love the arts from my personal twitter, @LoonyMoonyLara.
I’m still going to be there. I can still be besties with all of you. The only thing that will forever fall away from who I am is that phrase, “Editor of Musae Mosaic.”
And with that, there are a few people I want to thank, people who’ve made this possible for me the last six years, who’ve supported me no matter what and who are a huge part of my heart and always will be…
Thank you, Amy Good. You were the first person who believed in my ability to do more and give more. You gave me the beautiful creation that is #FridayPhrases and I’ve loved it unconditionally for all this time. Thank you for the chance you gave me. Thank you for this beautiful memory. And thank you, @ReedwithaBee! You trusted me with #200WT! It was the most beautiful gift to be given, the trust and friendship with it. I am so sorry that I couldn’t do more for it in the end. I am so, so sorry.
Thank you, @chris_mahan, for the support and so much more over all these years. There will in no way ever truly be a goodbye. But you were there when Friday Phrases, 200 Word Tuesdays, even Musae Mosaic was about to go under and you saved it, time and again. I owe you so much. And soon I’ll begin repaying every kindness you’ve ever given me and my family. For now, I hope this thanks will be enough.
And finally, thank you, thank you for YOU. You’ve been my heroes for all this time and you will always be. I’m still in awe of each and every single one of you for the stories you’ve shared and the amazing things you set free into this world. Thank you for being my best friends for all these years, for giving me so much, for allowing me to have these memories, these experiences. You are truly … truly wonderful. And I adore you with all of my heart. I always will.
Musae Mosaic will not live into the new week.
This week … will be the last #FridayPhrases I share with all of you. I am going to be crying my eyes out for hours and hours, because I hated saying goodbye five years ago and I hate saying goodbye now.
Some things never change 🙂
I will not immediately delete the Musae Mosaic twitter account and if anyone would like me to add them to the #FPbestiesandbff’s list I have on my personal account, DM me on Musae Mosaic and I’ll add you! You can also just follow me on @LoonyMoonyLara and we can chat more there. I’d love to stay in touch, after all! 🙂
But … with that being said and done, it really is time for goodbye.
It’s time for one last Thank You
And Goodbye.

Lara, the GRAY Girls and Musae Mosaic.

Share The Love: The Maggie Bowman Recovery Fund

Hello, all you beautiful people … it’s time for a little bit of love in the Musae Mosaic Universe 🙂
Over the last few years, we GRAY Girls really saw the ass-end of situations in life. In hospitals with health issues, in dark spaces, in depressions and throughout all of that, we have been so blessed. Blessed to know the most wonderful people on planet Earth, blessed to know people who have helped us through the worst times … it gave us strength to do so much. And it has been our dream for so long to in some way repay the many, many kindnesses we we’re shown …
Today I have an opportunity to do something just like that. I get to offer something I have to a very special and wonderful human being, one of my best friends and one of the most beautiful people this world will ever see. I am, of course, talking about @bobbibowwoman.

I won’t tell her story. I will share her words with you, and it would mean the world to me if any spare penny could go to helping Maggie Bowman make her recovery. Family is the only true thing I have to fight for in life, and this platform, Musae Mosaic … it was built on the love between a family. Not just me, my mom, my sisters … but also each and every single one of you who’ve been with us from the beginning and whom I love with all my heart.
I hope that sharing this brings another beautiful family some peace, and I hope I can call upon you to share this post, and share this fundraiser. Share it and spread as much love as we can for this family. It never ceases to amaze me, the magic that can be made by a community. Please help me spare a little bit of that magic for @bobbibowwoman and her family. Help me spread a magic the world truly needs 🙂 Please help me spread some love. For this family who needs it …

Now for the story in @bobbibowwoman‘s words …


For full details regarding the Maggie Bowman Recovery Fund, click on the image to go to the fundraiser page. Widgets don’t like me and I couldn’t embed the details into this post. I beg forgiveness. Don’t forget to share this post and the fundraiser! Thank you for everything! 

Lara and the GRAY Girls,

Ocean of Life with @KarinaLawrence!

When I was seven years old I decided when I grew up I would be an artist and an author, I still haven’t changed my mind. For a long while art was my main squeeze, I took art lessons as a kid and went to an art college for a year.

Circumstances changed when I was around 17, and I ended up moving from Spain to England. Writing became a big outlet for me, eventually leading me to university and a degree in English Language and Creative Writing.

Skip ahead a few years and writing has opened a lot of doors for me, including a job in Communications, which is where my passion seems to truly lie these days. Using my artistic and writing skills in a job is a dream come true and I hope to have the opportunity to keep working in Communications for years to come… fingers crossed!

Both art and writing are now calling to me again though, so I’m spending many late nights typing away like a mad woman trying to get everything done! It’s ok though, I’m fuelled by coffee!

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

KL: I love losing myself in a character, in their life, their world, their story. I love putting pen to paper, or my fingers onto the keyboard, and seeing new facets of a character emerge on the page. That moment, when a character is suddenly fully formed and takes their first breath, that’s the best bit about writing.

MM: So, what have you written?

KL: Aw man… I write a lot, but genuinely not often enough. I’ve just taken 12 months off of writing due to work, and I’ve been giving myself a hard time about it. But I’ve just rebooted my blog, where I share a lot of short stories, poetry and talk about my art and writing process.

I am about 70,000 words into a first draft of a novel that I feel quite strongly about, and the plan is to start writing that again in the next few weeks. Once the first draft is done I’ll be doing a very vicious editing process, as the novel has changed so much from what it originally started as.

Soon(ish) I should have news on a graphic novel I collaborated on with my friend @reckoner67 which was a blast to write! I’ve also collaborated with him on a short story anthology set in a hotel, which was the first real writing I did in the past 12 months and really got me back into writing. Everyone will know once it’s available to purchase, because I’m super excited about this anthology.

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

KL: When I was 14 a teacher called Mar pulled me to one side after class. She’d just finished reading our homework assignments, a piece of automatic writing (you let your mind wander, put pen to paper and write down whatever comes to mind).

She had tears in her eyes and gave me encouragement that I’ll never forget. She told me I was a ship, and that no matter where the ocean of life took me, writing was my port. She was the first person to tell me I was a writer. Her words meant everything to me.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

KL: I’m currently working on what feels like a saga, but is actually a 70k unfinished first draft of a novel. Some will say the main character is shockingly similar to me. And, in some ways, she is.

The WIP is called Sarah. And she’s a bisexual woman struggling through her 20s, trying to understand the difference between love and lust. She expresses herself through her art as she struggles with addiction, depression, anxiety and rejection.

Some of these things, to a higher or lesser degree, can be said about me in my 20s. My 20s were tough! And to this day I find that love is hard to define, describe and feel. But I’ve been told that what you write best is what you know. So in a way Sarah is an exaggerated, twisted version of me. The true extent of similarities is a secret I’ll never tell…

MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?

KL: My first ever story was about a little boy and his robot best friend. He didn’t understand other children, his robot friend didn’t either. And although I don’t think I had this insight when I was a kid, I can see myself reflected in that little boy. I guess in some ways my writing hasn’t changed. But I sure hope it’s improved since I was nine!

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

KL: 100% a pantser. Queen of all pantsers everywhere!

I write a beginning, I write an ending (or two) and then I struggle to make the two meet up in the middle. For me that’s where the real story is and that’s the fun part to write.

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

KL: I really love #FP, I remember when it started I was way more involved and would take part every week. I’ve kinda had to let that slide a little with other Friday commitments (day jobs, who has time for them?). That’s probably what I like the least, missing out on it while I’m at work.

What I love about it is that it’s the pantsiest of all writing exercises. Give me a topic and a couple minutes, or even a few seconds, and I’ll jot something down. I always write them on the fly, not sure if that’s a good thing or not. And I rarely edit them, unless I’m going over that pesky character limit!

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

KL: I have quite an eclectic taste, from classic novels like Catcher in the Rye, to SciFi Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and comic books of all varieties. Terry Pratchett was one of my favourite authors, I’m still making my way through his Discworld novels.

Cassandra Clare is currently one of my favourite authors, the way she threads a story through the world she’s created is a true inspiration.

The more I read, the better the books, the better my writing becomes, because I see how it can be better, so I push to be better myself.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home?

KL: I don’t think I have one! I used to quite like “Who dares, wins.” Or a bit of Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try.”

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

KL: Keeping at it… which is the most vital thing! Making time to write when you’ve been at work writing all day can sometimes be really unappealing. Once I’m sat down I’m fine, I’ll write. Getting my butt into the chair is another thing completely. I try combating that by having notebooks everywhere and writing using pen and paper, then I spend hours transcribing! At least it keeps the WIP going though.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

KL: Ah man, this one’s a tough one. When I get writer’s block I stop and pretend I’m not a writer. Eventually I start reading more, go out and experiencing new things, watch a new show on tv… and eventually one of these things will reignite the writing spark in me. I’ve never really been able to force writing.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

KL: I dance! I plus my headphones in, choose a playlist and dance like no one is watching!

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

KL: Just keep going, every day. Don’t quit quite as regularly as I do and you’ll manage to finish something worthwhile. But most of all just have fun with it. If writing is stressing you, you’re not doing it right.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

KL: Love. It’s something that fascinates me and eludes me.

MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

KL: I just finished reading Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare, definitely worth a read if you enjoy YA fantasy.

I’ve also been trying to read weird books, or eccentric books, this year… like In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.

Currently I’m not doing a great job of reading, haven’t been making the time, but I’ve started The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien and I’m enjoying it!

MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

KL: Thanks for reading, if in fact you still are… Stay weird.

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

KL: You can find me on Twitter @KarinaLawrence and on Instagram @karina_lawrence (don’t forget that underscore on insta, the lady who has KarinaLawrence does not like to be tagged in stuff meant for me!)

I’ve also just revamped my old Silver Linings blog (having archived all my super old posts) to show people more about the process I go through to create art and the distractions I love that keep me from writing.

My art can be found at www.redbubble.com/people/karinalawrence and if you love my stuff please leave comments on the artwork as they really help.

The Accidental Quest – Yodel –

By Karina Lawrence-Davies

Let me begin by clearly stating, for record’s sake, that I am categorically not a coward. Though people may tell you otherwise. Some may call it cowardice to run away from fire breathing serpents, whereas I call it an instinct for survival. You wouldn’t blame a fish for swimming in water, a duck for flying or a pig for wallowing in mud. So a man is hardly to blame for having such a strong will to live, surely? It’s been bred into me, through generations of survivors, from the days of the cavemen. Evolution, that’s what that’s called. Not, and I repeat not, cowardice.

A survivor, that’s what I am in this tale. And if I’ve had to do my fair share of running, I shouldn’t be judged solely on that fact. After all, it was a good bit of running, specially that first bit. A ten I’d say, if we were in the business of grading it. Back to my point though, a man is more than simply one of his traits. I’m also rather tall. You don’t see people going around saying, “oh look at that tall chap”.[1]

So now that that’s all cleared up, let’s begin. We’ll start in the small town of Yodel.

As starting places go it’s rather on the petite side, and the mud to acreage proportion is on the high side. In fact it’s much too muddy for anyone’s liking. Except for the pigs. Pigs love Yodel. Surprisingly, however, in the entirety of Yodel there was only one pig farmer. And to his name he had only the three pigs.[2] The pig farmer, George Underwood, or more familiarly known as Mr Underwood, had three daughters but no wife. Some say she sunk into the mud, but you can’t believe everything you hear.

Yodel lies in a large-ish valley, which would usually mean it could house a quantifiably larger village, but proportions were never the strong suit of its residents. The small muddy hillocks are green once a year for half a week. People in Yodel call this summer, and for that week they put up their feet and enjoy the wondrous view. And in fairness to the few residents, even to an outsider, summer in Yodel really is something of a beauty.

As luck would have it, the story does not start in summer. A pity really, as the backdrop for our tale would be much more wondrous. As it was, in the middle of this winter, the mud was particularly sloshed with ice and a horrid grey colour.

Amongst the mud stood a tall and rather handsome man. Barely in his twenties. Broad shouldered. Talented. The envy of the whole village. Alright, yes. I’ll admit it was me. I was standing in the middle of the village.

‘Oi! Boy! Stop eyeing up those pigs and get some work done. Mud won’t shovel itself! Useless git.’ Mr Underwood yelled from the rickety gate that cordoned off his particular piece of mud. The dirty fencing told people “this is my piece of mud, and right proud of it I am too”, or so Mr Underwood believed.

‘Sorry George, right away!’ I quipped.

‘And I’ve told you boy, it’s Mr Underwood Sir to you!’

‘Sir, yes sorry Mr Underwood, sir!’

Alright so maybe I wasn’t so much envied as just plain underappreciated. A true underdog… one who shovelled mud from one side of a pigsty to another. My ma, bless her heart, had tried her best not to have a fourth child.

“If it hadn’t been for that extra cider that one summer night…” she used to say to me with a wistful sigh. If it hadn’t been for the cider I, Filbert Filigree Spinner, would not have been here in this big patch of mud in this small town on what would soon become the most exciting[3] day of my life.[4]

Mr and Mrs Spinner were both of average height, average weight and average looks. My ma often told me I was a throwback, though I’m not quite sure what she meant by it and never thought to ask. As the fourth son of the family[5], it’s fair to say I was a little bit shunned. Downright despised by some. Even the local tearaways steered clear of me. They might have wanted to rebel and disobey their fathers, but they weren’t stupid. Luck is, after all, luck.[6]

Despite everything the Spinner’s household was a happy place to grow up. My brothers didn’t bully and tease me in a way I’d seen them do to one another. In fact, they never so much as laid a finger on me. Their favourite game to play with me, aside from chanting good luck ditties at me, was called the “freeze”. Quite simply they would fail to acknowledge my existence any chance they had, instead pretending that the space I occupied was empty. Over time I got quite good at playing this game.

Ma filled the house with knickknacks, the usual three leaf clover and horseshoe arrangement you saw in many houses. As the youngest I often found myself roped in to household chores, which was fine by me. After all there are only so many games you can play with mud that don’t involve it being thrown at your head while you run for cover in more mud.

With the passing of years, my parents found I was growing rather tall. Tallest of the bunch, by a good foot[7]. And although clumsiness was in my nature, being tall also had its advantages. I didn’t need a stool when mounting or dismounting a horse, I could dust away pesky cobwebs and the honour of topping the Christmas tree was always undisputedly mine.

Adulthood, or as my pops called it “coming of age”, meant getting a job. Most people in Yodel tried their best to avoid me, so when it came to work there was only one choice. Mr Underwood would hire cheap labour from wherever he could get it, his motto being “cheap is cheap”. And that brings us back to the pile of mud, the shovel in my hands and the sheen of labour’s endeavours on my face.

 

[1] OK, so maybe on a few occasions he is referred to as “that tall chap”, but that was circumstantial (and mean). We’ll get to that a bit later.

[2] Small fact about Yodel, the number three is considered to be very lucky. This small detail will in fact determine much of the fate of this tale. So, not so small really, but still, three was the magic number.

[3] Frightening

[4] His life up to that point. There were many, many more frightening moments to come. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

[5] One in which the first three brothers had typically been named in true Yodel tradition, Allard Aerkerman Spinner, Barnaby Brok Spinner and Chace Clayborne Spinner, the ABC element of the family unit.

[6] He knew this as his father often sighed it at the dinner table as he patted his son’s arm affectionately.

[7] Thankfully, a bad foot would have been more bad luck than he could take.

Living Art Every Day with @EdiesHaven!

An ADHD-riddled mother of three, who can’t help the one-liners, writing started as something to help my brain settle and became a passion. I’m obsessed with the supernatural and paranormal. I don’t believe but I want to!

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

KW: Everybody said to write the stories you want to read, so I did. I didn’t see why horror and urban fantasy couldn’t be sex-positive or have mentally-ill protagonists or be working class… or have wolves that are based in reality (grumbles under her breath about “alpha” wolves).

And it might be egotistical, but I reread my stuff all the time because of that. I literally wrote the stories I want to read. Flawed, three dimensional people,(usually smart-asses… we all have our favorite tropes), who ultimately mean well, and just happen to kick so much ass, surrounded by plots where nobody picks up an idiot ball to move things along.

MM: So, what have you written?

KW: I have four collections of short stories published.
Uncommon Animals, Monsters of Pittsburgh, and Last Call center on Mina and Matty Grekov, two runaway werewolves. In between fighting monsters, they try to find “their normal.” Which is to say, figure out how to really live after a lifetime of abuse.

Uncommon Animals has seven stories (shorts and novellas), each with a different emphasis on the various genres that make up Urban Fantasy, but with my snark and sensibilities laced through it all, even the Romance. Ultimately, it’s about Mina and Matty building a life that they love, and finding a family.

Monsters of Pittsburgh continues Mina and Matty’s adventures with another seven stories. This time around, the life they built is tested by the resurgence of their abusers.

Last Call is the final seven Mina and Matty stories. Really, I wanted to showcase them happy in their choices, even when those choices weren’t easy.

Hedge Doctor is my other “Pittsburgh” collection. A minor character from the other three books got his own spotlight, and I got to try my hand at YA fiction. Set between Monsters of Pittsburgh and Last Call, we follow Jeff Hanson, talented witch, through the last three weeks of his senior year. It not a traditional coming of age story, nor is Jeff a tradition YA hero, but I’ve never been good with traditions.

And then there are my door-stopper novels. Set in the same ‘verse, they won’t see the light of day until I finish the series.

And my Chelsea Childling stories… (yeah, I’m prolific.), a series of free short stories on my blog about someone discovering the monster hunting world.

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

KW: Right after my last pregnancy. It was a rough one, lots of complications, and my recovery was slow. ADHD can be awesome because of the hyperfocus, but it’s a son of bitch when you don’t have the stamina to burn off the excess energy. Writing seemed to relieve that need. And then I couldn’t stop.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

KW: Well, I’m always working on my novels, huge-ass, doorstoppers with a complicated, multi-layered plot. I might finish them this decade. I wanted to play with High Fantasy tropes, the Barrier Maiden, the Knight-Templar, The Bard, Prophecies, etc, and give them a modern, Urban Fantasy twist. The first one is written and needs copy editing… badly. The second of seven might see a final draft this year.

But on stuff people can read, I’m writing Chelsea Childling: Newbie Monster Hunter. The monster hunting community in my Pittsburgh stories was not typical of the rest of my ‘verse, so I wanted to explore that side a little.

 

MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?

KW: In fifth grade, we wrote, illustrated, and published books. Mine was a Where the Red Fern Grows knock off and super depressing. I even killed the dog.
Now, I’d make the cougar a monster and the dog would live.

(Max, Hex, I promise, I’m not killing Chelsea’s dog!)

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

KW: Ummm…..
Ummm…..
Both and neither?
This is so hard for me, because sometimes the story comes whole and complete, and I write with little to no changes.
And sometimes, I get a single image or line to base the story around and it takes so many drafts to get it right.
On average, I’m a plantser. I have a lot of rules for magic and creatures and magical creatures, so plots and plotting can be easy or difficult.
Basically, my ‘verse has sprawled out on the couch and taken its pants off, and I’m okay with that.

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

KW: Flash fiction started as a challenge. I tend towards wordiness and wanted to see if I could be concise. Could I tell a story in less than 1000 words? The answer turned out to be ‘kinda.’ I can’t not write in my ‘verse, which means that very few of my stories are genuinely stand alone. You can read them and enjoy them, but you like them more if you’ve read the others.

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

KW: Oh my. Stephen King, Frank Herbet, Robert Jordan, Anne Rice, Brandon Sanderson, Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith and Terry Pratchett are the biggies.
Madeline L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Neil Gaimen are the minors.
So big complicated plots, with lots of layers and symbolism, grounded by fleshed-out, complicated characters, who don’t always do the right thing.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and … why? What about it really hits home? 🙂

KW:
Anonymous poem on pinterest:
Adverbs aren’t evil; said isn’t dead
Please stop hitting the wall with your head
Active is grand, but not always best
Sometimes its passive that passes the test
Some write with style, others write plain
Let’s all agree writing’s a pain
The ‘rules’ can be broken, twisted, or bent
All that matters is you are content
Make your own story, write your own way
This has been the writer’s PSA

For me this the best advice for writers, and for critiquing writing. It’s not my job as a beta to make your story “good” by my standards but to help you write your story.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

KW:
Waiting for my beta readers. I can’t help tinkering, even before I get feedback.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

KW:
Music is a big part of writing for me. Can’t find the right mood? Find the right song! And if all else fails EDM always motivates me to just write. It’s how I got through college.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

KW: Dancing. That music thing I mentioned before can be accompanied by dancing when I really need to get stuff done.

MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!

KW: My avatar is totally a wolf. I have a wolf tattoo and wolves are all over my work. I’m completely shameless about it.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

KW: Don’t worry about the “rules”. Just write what you want to read.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

KW: Urban fantasy. That meld of horror, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, and action-adventure is so freeing to my mind. Genres are meant to be mashed together, like a good gulash. Just throw what you have left over in the oven and bake. It’s going to be delicious.

MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

KW: While currently rereading Madeline L’Engle with my kids, I get my personal reading fix from my writing buddies these days. So I’m going to shamelessly plug my friends here. Check out Gina Drayer (my fellow Crimson Heart writer. Wonderful fluffy, light romance with lots of humor), Ophelia Bell (if you like your romance with dragons, she’s your lady), Jeanne Marcella (lovely prose and amazing characters, incredibly detailed universe), and Sarah Moll (who’s amazing book comes out in July.)

MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

KW: If you love the arts support them. Buy that t-shirt your favorite webcomic is hawking. Go to local music shows. Pick up that sick painting from the street artist. Art shouldn’t be a sometimes thing but an always thing. Buy the funky throw pillows and bright orange couch, then crochet the perfect blanket to go with it. Live art, always, every day.

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

KW: Twitter, My Blog, Facebook.

Chelsea and Jackson 
By Kate Whitaker

The full moon through the skylight left the room illuminated, but cold. Chelsea lay in the bright, silvery light, wondering what had woken her.
Warm hands brushed her bare back, and Jackson murmured, “Shh. It’s okay, go back to sleep.”
She rolled over, sprawled across his body, and rested her head on his chest. The damp chest hair that greeted her face was unpleasant for several reasons. Cold and clammy against her cheek, it meant night sweats. But Jackson never stressed out.
He barely works up a sweat during our training sessions.
“What’s wrong?”
His arms wrapped around her. “Nothing, my little nun. Just one of my nightmares.”
She tightened her limbs, squeezing as much of him as she could. “You okay?”
His chin tapped the top of her head as he nodded. “I’m used to them.”
“Used to them?” her voice came out more annoyed than she intended. “We’ve been together for almost two months. How the hell did you keep something like this from me for two months?”
His low chuckle raised goosebumps along her skin as fingers trailed up her bare ribs towards her breasts.
She smacked his chest. “Seriously, Jack!”
He sighed. “You’ve been a little preoccupied, and like I said, I’m used to them. Generally, I wake up in a cold sweat, and head to the bathroom. Once I’m calm, I come back to bed. You didn’t notice, because I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Jack…”
He snugged her closer. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”
She twirled his chest hair. “Obviously, it’s not. My therapist says regular nightmares that interrupt your sleep—”
He laughed. “Yeah, my caseworkers sent me to lots of therapists over the years. Nothing to be done about my nightmares. They just are.”
“Caseworkers?” Chelsea listened to his still-pounding heart through his ribs.
There was no answer for a long moment, then he sat up, pulling her along. “I was… the thing is, Chelsea, most monster hunters are fucked up people. There’s a few hunting families that go back generations, but mostly, we get into this game for the same reason you did: somebody you know and love gets killed, and nobody is going to believe that it’s a vampire or whatever. So, you have to take care of it yourself. And you keep going after monsters until you have a bad night. Then the fight is all over.”
His hand traveled down her back, returning to her shoulders as he talked. The gesture seemed more about taking comfort than giving any.
“But me… I was six, and my brother was ten. Our mom had lots of problems.” He huffed a laugh. “Well, really, she had two problems, booze and men, but they brought on the rest. And when she was in full swing, when the house was full of strung out and drunk strangers, Chuck and I took off. We didn’t have a dad, and if none of our friends could take us, we’d spend the night at the local park.”
She gave him another full body squeeze. Pampered and loved all her life, she couldn’t imagine not trusting her parents or them abandoning her.
His hands gripped her hips for a moment, before he continued. “Well, one night, we ran into a reaver.”
“What’s a reaver?”
Jackson let out a rough breath, almost, but not quite a laugh. “A type of vampire. Think the exact opposite of a nightling. Instead of being inhumanly pretty and intelligent, they are saw-toothed, red-eyed, hairless, brainless, killing machines. One bite, and you turn or you die.”
“Jack…”
He shrugged. “We ran, of course. Chuck boosted me over the fence, but he scraped his knee getting over the top. Reavers go nuts at the scent of fresh blood.” He swallowed, his throat twitching along the side of her head. “It tore him apart in front of me.”
Tears welled up in her eyes.
Jack’s voice took on a determinedly cheerful quality. “And so began my stint in foster care. I was pulled from the neglectful arms of my drunk mother and passed from family to family until my sixteenth birthday. On that day, I walked out of my latest home and started hunting.”
“Why did you wait so long?”
For the first time since she awoke, Jackson truly sounded like himself as a huge laugh bubbled out of him. “I thought I was fucking crazy. I was six, remember? I told everybody about what I’d seen. Which meant a good decade of therapists explaining to me about how I made up a monster so I had something tangible to be mad at, instead of the ‘obvious’ abduction gone wrong that ripped my brother to pieces.”
“What changed your mind?”
Jackson quieted. “A friend got attacked by a reaver.”
“And you had to watch, again?”
He nodded against her hair, once more. “Yeah, but at least I knew I wasn’t crazy. So I took off, hunting monsters.”
She sat up in the weak light, unsure of what, if anything to say. The moon washed out all the color. His black hair lacked its reddish highlites, and his brilliant green eyes were a pale imitation of themselves.
A forced smile stretched across his face. “It’s all right, Chelsea.”
“You still have nightmares.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know a monster hunter without them, including you.”
“I’m not—”
“A monster hunter,” he finished with her. “You just have a mean left hook, nightmares, and want to revenge-kill nightlings.”
“The nightmares started before Dink was killed.” Her voice wobbled into the pale light. “It was my parents’ murder.”
His fingers dug into her hips again, pulling her closer. Despite their lack of clothes, there was nothing sexual in the gesture, a first from Jackson Hawk.
She found herself talking about her dreams. “I’m in a clear box, looking out at a storm. The pouring rain is deafening in there, and slowly, the air is being sucked out. I can’t breathe, and I can’t hear anything except the rain, but I can see the water covering the box.” Just talking about it made her heart slam against her ribs.
Jackson’s hand slid up her back, pulling her gently against him. She leaned in, soaking up his closeness. Soft, warm skin over hard muscles and scars. More and more Jackson felt like home.
Don’t believe that.
She had to remember that Jackson lacked any desire to stick around, and she couldn’t leave, yet. But she had a life beyond killing monsters to go back to. And Jackson Hawk couldn’t say “no” to a woman if his life were on the line.
“So,” he said after a long silence, “you and Dink ever hook up?”
She shook her head and sat up again. “No. He—after my parents died, I went self-destructive, lots of drinking. Dink took it upon himself to keep an eye on me, make sure I didn’t drink too much, stumble into traffic, or get raped.”
“You two seemed chummy that night.”
Chelsea shrugged. “I wasn’t interested, and he knew it. He heard me bitch about pushy guys often enough.” Tears welled up and spilled over. “Maybe— ”
Jack shook his head. “No ‘maybes’, my little nun. Going over the past won’t prevent it from having happened.”
She studied him in the moonlight. Dark shadows painted the skin under his high cheekbones, and the sheen of humor he usually sported was absent. For the first time in two months, she finally began to feel like she knew him.
Chelsea slid her hands up his arms. “Only one shot, Jackson?”
“Monsters aren’t known for their mercy.” He snuggled into their bed, taking her with him. They shuffled and maneuvered, trying for the best way to lie together. Between one breath and the next, the balance was found. Warm and protected once more, Chelsea fell back asleep.

Double Trouble #200WT for June & July!

So! A few weeks ago, you know, things were looking a little down for Musae Mosaic. I was considering laying it all to rest and focusing my energies on other things that could make this thing called life an adventure, but after a period of heavy consideration … it turned out that I loved this too much to let it go, and that’s why it’s not going anywhere.
So yaaaay for that, but there’s still a long ways to go before we can make this everything that it can be. A lot had to change and there are more changes still to come, the magnitude of which freaks me out in huge ways because I’m seriously stepping out of my comfort zone here!
But life is, as always, an adventure, and who am I to deny adventure, right?

But anyways … this #200WT theme announcement comes with a little note or two on the future of the feature. We’re experimenting with ways we can grow, and this feature is part of that, so for the foreseeable future, we’re going to be publishing it bi-monthly only, and using the rest of the time to find and write the juiciest stories we can so there’s more to sink your teeth into 🙂
We hope this will give you more time to write and share your stories with the world.
For June and July, we will also be running a Double Trouble 2 months of #200WT, such as it was with April and May, (I think) so FOUR themes for the next few weeks! Oh yeah! Set the creative juices on fire, baby!
And now that you know the certain changes coming to #200WT, time to announce the themes!

The June #200WT themes are:

HAUNTED HOUSE

&

PUPPY LOVE!

Aaaaand with June spoken for, the #200WT themes for July are

BLINDING LIGHT!

&

LITTLE TREASURES!

I hope these themes inspire some truly amazing things! I know I’ll be writing up a storm for the first time in ages and I can’t wait to share new things with you all and just get to all the great things planned for Musae Mosaic!
Until then, may the Muses be fair to thee!

We Are Here: An Update and More

Hello, world and a very happy Monday to you!
We hope it’s the beginning of a lovely week!
So the purpose of this post is to update you on the developments since our last post, To Believe or not to Believe?
It’s been a very eventful weekend for us, a lot of planning, a lot of thought, a lot of idea. A lot of uncertainties.
For those of you who missed the To Believe or not to Believe post, we asked what it meant to you, this magazine, and how would you feel if it weren’t running anymore, among many other things.
90% of the response was NOOO, PLEASE DON’T GOOOO!
At the same time, there were a lot of you who privately expressed your disinterest in this project, so there was a lot to consider. A lot.
And in the end, weighing every decision the way I have, with a lot of support along the way, we chose on the future of Musae Mosaic Magazine, with all the games and activities included.
We’ve decided to stay.
This decision didn’t come easily, because there are still a few mountains to climb before we are anywhere near to encompassing the vision we have for this magazine, and that vision, creating an international safe space for authors, a place of support, of sharing, caring and more, can only happen with you being part of this community, being part of what we want to achieve. As always, you are at the core of everything this magazine is about.
I want to thank you all, each and every single one of you, for being so supportive of this magazine. For being part of everything we do, for being the voice of who we are and what we are trying to give to the world.
We could not have come this far without you.
We couldn’t have gone past our first year without you and we have. You are our motivation in everything we do and try for this magazine, you are our reason for being here.
Thank you.
We want to be there for you for years and years to come. We want to be there for you throughout the thick and thin of the future, and we want to see you create every single beautiful thing you’ve ever dreamt of.
That is why, we will stay.

What Happens Next …

What happens next is largely up to you. Some months ago, in a similar place of desperation to just grow, we wanted to introduce something called the MMVP, or a voluntary program of sorts to bring people together and write things together for the magazine, share content, share audiences, reach people and that didn’t work out. We’re not bringing it back, but there are other things you can do if you want to be involved, in any capacity you desire.
We are here.

The focus of this magazine is the written word, but we want to be able to share this magic with artists telling stories with anything. Songs, paintings, sculptors, foodies, filmmakers, actors, anything with anyone who has a flair for the creative life.
We want to reach out to anyone with a story to tell, and if it’s a story you want to tell and share on our magazine, we are here. We are open. All day, all week, all month, every day of the year, you can share any story you want the world to read.
We are here.

You can be even more involved; this project is non-profit, and we would love to be able to share monetary recompense for team members in an administrative role, and one day soon, that can be more than possible, but until then, more will again be a contract of faith. Even in this role, activities will be shared and evened out, so it doesn’t overwhelm anyone. So that it stays what’s most important. FUN.
Things here will include sharing your thought pieces, reviews, reaching out to interesting people you find online on a multitude of platforms, interviewing the people you’re interested in, featuring your books, articles, interesting snippets you want the world to know. Cultivating our social media presence and creating relationships with the many amazing people we could all reach together.
There are so many things we can do together, and again, you control the time you want to spend on it, you choose what you want to do, you have all the power here, but all the passion too.
We are here.

We are here for anything and everything you want to do with us. We are dedicated to you. That is our essence and our truth.
Regardless of everything we hope you’ll be doing with us from here on out, we are still going to do everything we can to give you the best experience we can with what we have and the time we can pour into Musae Mosaic.
Thank you for sticking with us for so long.
We are here. And we will never leave.

The Musae Mosaic Team

Purposefully Poetic with @Clydesdale8!

I haven’t written any books yet, but I have 2 blogs. One of them is poetry and the others flash fiction. I am just starting out. For most of my life, I wasted my time and talent (for messy personal reasons I won’t go into here). I worked a variety of jobs: restaurant, pet store, bar, and home health care. I was always told “writing is a waste of time and too hard to get into.”

At the age of 50, I decided to go for it. My body and mind were permanently damaged by my life of hard labor. I could not work anymore outside my home, and I was tired of killing myself to make others rich.

At this point, I am not concerned about money. I want to share my talent with the world. My teachers in the past said I had the potential to be a good writer. I still have a lot to learn, and I am studying writing books and reading blogs by more experienced writers. This is something I must do for me.

My life is rather quiet now. I have a husband and four cats. I am interested in a lot of things, but, due to health problems, I don’t go out much. I read almost anything, but my favorites are Sci-fi, fantasy, poetry, and non-fiction (history, science, and biographies.) And I cannot live without coffee!

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

MM2: I love language, and how it’s put together. In school, I think I was the only one who liked diagraming sentences. I draw too, and that is how I see writing. You put the words together to create art, only with words, it’s much more difficult. I don’t just want to entertain, I want to challenge the status quo and make people think twice about the things we all take for granted.

MM: So, what have you written?

MM2: I have written many poems for my poetry blog on WordPress, and I have one story on Blogspot. I also have poems on Scriggler. I know it does not seem like much, but for me, this was a big accomplishment. I also have various micro poems on Twitter.

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

MM2: I always knew it was for me, but I let others talk me out of it.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

MM2: I’m working on a short story now, plus some poems. The story is a little bit Sci-fi, with some street drama mixed in.

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

MM2: I used to be a panster, but now I am attempting to work with an outline. This is for stories; for poems, I just put the images down, and then rework them until I feel it’s finished. The wonderful thing about poetry is the fact that it seems to write itself sometimes.

MM: How do you find #FP helps your writing?

MM2: I really love #FP. It’s a challenge to come up with something in so short a space and word limit. I don’t use writing prompts, but #FP works for me.

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

MM2: I like flash fiction because it can get to the point quickly. More words are not always better. On the other hand, sometimes I do not get the point of what the author is trying to say.

MM: What inspires you most about writing?

MM2: What inspires me most about words, whether it be poetry, fiction, or songs, is that they can change the world. Not always in a grand, earth-shaking fashion, but in the fact that you can make someone’s day better or inspire others to strive for their own success. Many a writer of books and songs have lifted me from a bad place and kept me going.

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

MM2: In the past, my inspirations were the old masters: Tolstoy, Burns, T.S. Eliot. Now I am strongly influenced by Alice Walker, Rudolfo Anaya, Langston Hughes, John Steinbeck, and Toni Morrison. Growing up as an Hispanic in the 1970‘s, I got no exposure to any writers who were not white Americans or Europeans. I love to read writers from other cultural backgrounds. I am particularly inspired by writers who do not sugarcoat society’s problems, but tell the truth, even if it’s ugly and painful. I want to be that kind of writer, not to hurt or start fights, but to stick up for the underdog.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why?

MM2: To be honest, I am kind of a cynic and pessimist, so I don’t have any one thing to motivate me. Writing is a frustrating, difficult, and painful practice at times. I credit the writers on Twitter for keeping me going. They have been quite supportive.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

MM2: The hardest part is my health. I cannot use my hands too long, or they spasm and shake. I have no short term memory anymore; some days I forget things in mid-sentence. Some days my mind won’t work at all. My attention span is getting shorter. I get ill very easy and catch every bug going around, which wipes me out for days. This makes my writing go extremely slow. On a good day, I can work for hours and forget the time. On a bad day, I might work for an hour. On a horrible day, forget it.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

MM2: I have never had writer’s block. I am full of ideas, but it takes me a long time to get them out. I get frustrated by my poor health. On those days, I remind myself I will regret it if I don’t try. Even if I make no money, I want to finish the work for myself.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow

MM2: No, I don’t have any rituals. I do start everything in notebooks with either pen or pencil. It helps me to slow down and focus, plus staring at a screen too long gives me a headache. I only type when it’s time to show it to others.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

MM2: My advice would be:
1. Don’t think you’re too old to start writing. I have known many people who died sad because of the “I should have’s…”

2. Don’t censor yourself before you begin. I don’t mean sex, violence, or bad language. I mean the people telling you to not even try, or that you must conform to whatever’s popular at the moment or to the status quo. Or that your style or ideas are too weird. The wonderful thing today is the Internet. You can appeal to people the mainstream publishers ignored in the past. Experiment, and if it fails, learn from it and move on.

3. Learn, learn, learn! Be honest if you are still learning (say writer, not author). There are lots of great writing books and videos, use them. There are many great writers on Twitter that help new writers learn; seek them out.
It was the writing community on Twitter that finally motivated me to try. I’m glad I did.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

MM2: I am drawn to Sci-fi and fantasy. I am also drawn to stories about people overcoming abuse, since my childhood was difficult. The #FP’s I do best at are the ones dealing with secrets, darkness, and scary stuff. I don’t do well at happy, motivational things because most of my life was not happy, and darkness has become part of my character. It’s not a bad thing. I am learning to use it for my work.

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

MM2: My work can be found at:
missimontana@wordpress.com
annmontana@blogspot.com
Melissa Montana@scriggler.com
Missi Montana @facebook.com
MissiM@Clydesdale8

Rose Haiku:

A single red rose.
How kind of you to draw my
attention to you!

Dew lies on a rose-
crimson red and crystal clear.
A perfect union.

The soft, crimson rose.
To be that much alive, and
yet not disruptive.

Nothing There for Me:

If I must go to heaven
when I die,
there had better be pizza
and Key Lime pie.

If I must go to heaven
when I’m gone,
there should be kittens
on a lush green lawn.

If I must go to heaven
when I expire,
I want marshmallows and
hotdogs over a campfire.

If heaven does not have
any of these,
I don’t want heaven,
I’ll rot in the leaves.

Shades of Gray:

I am a spiritual skeptic,
while happily being a cynic.
I am an optimist who snarls
like a pessimist.
I strive to be a saint; it
doesn’t work when I’m sinning.
I fight to be ethical, but
it’s hard to resist cheating.
Inwardly, I’m lustful; to
the world at large a prude.
My tasks are completed somehow,
despite my lazy mood.

I am a human being, flawed
in many ways.
A wonderful fluke of the
Universe; my purpose
yet unnamed.

To Believe or not to Believe; Our next step.

Hello, wonderful people of the world!
Today is a day of huge introspection for me, because today I was thinking of my monumental to-do-list for this weekend alone, and I was mentioning some of it to someone I know. Their response was, how come you do so much and nothing ever comes of it?
Truth be told, that hit me really hard, but it is very true. I know I say a lot of things but I have nearly nothing to show for my business. For the sake of staying objective, I have to agree with this. I haven’t done anything of real consequence, I haven’t delivered on promises, (like the e-books, right, just had no money to have them formatted and published, even though they’re all still there, weeping at me every time I open that folder,) I haven’t been able to expand much on many things, I’m … all things considered, not doing a very good job on anything.
Motivating myself to “keeping dragging the dead horse” is very hard but no matter how hard it is, I’ve always adored this magazine, always wanted to do my best, give my best, stay positive for all the authors out there that I could reach and empower, with this beautiful community we have by my side.
I love every part of this and you with all my heart. For five years now, you’ve been part of my purpose, every decision I made for my lifetime has had the words Friday Phrases, Musae Mosaic, 200 Hundred Word Tuesdays all in this beautiful mix, it was going to be my lifetime adventure.
I would give this every single fibre of my being till the end of days if it meant being there to see legends in the writing world be born, magic being made every day and so much more … the dream has never once faded, but realities have set in and this brings me to what I wanted to say.
I’m asking you as a community, as my friends, as people I love so dearly … do you still believe in this “dead horse” of a dream, or is it something you think has reached its end and can be laid to rest peacefully?
Don’t ask me how I feel about it, I just want to know, I beg to know … do you envision there still being passion for this little project in a year, in another five years, in ten?
Or do you feel okay with this ending? For good?
A little twitter poll won’t help me answer this question and I feel like I’m cheating at the game, like I’m overlooking the most important part of everything if I don’t ask you. If I make that decision alone. I don’t want that. I want to know what there is that I can do to make this magazine better for you. I want to know what you want, what you need, what you’d love, so that I can devote more time in a more meaningful way.
As it I, I agonize over the lack of content I’m able to provide, the lack of meaning and experience, and it crushes me in ways I’ve never before experienced; that feeling of abject failure.
I don’t want this to be the story of my life, or the only legacy I leave for Musae Mosaic in one, five or ten years. I don’t want to hurt something I love so much. Ever. That includes each and every single one of you who has given me so much, so many memories, so much experience, so much to treasure for every day that I’m alive.
So … yes, I’m asking you what you think should happen to this legacy from here on out. I’m asking you what you’d want from it. I’m asking why you believe in it, if you do, and how I can make that better for you. I’m asking for you if you believe in it enough to continue it with me, to keep sharing your beautiful voice and to help me in a dream to give artists from all walks of life a place to belong.
That dream can be one of the most powerful, positive things I do in this life, and I know I can’t go at it alone, but I can’t ask anyone to help me. I haven’t done enough to deserve that.
In the end, I think what I feel is relatively inconsequential here. This magazine is made for you, powered by your words and your passion. I’m just here as the incredibly fortunate woman who gets to witness that. But I can’t keep this live if no one believes in it enough anymore. If there is at least that, I will power through the lack of content, the endless search of things I can do to make up for that, the hours I pour and am willing to pour into this project so that I can truly help deliver something magnificent to the world.
But this is my hour of need, and all I need is you to tell me what you love about this, what you want from it, what it means to you, how I can better serve you with this project, how I can give you more, what I can do to give you more, and above all … if you believe in it and don’t want to see it laid to rest for good.
Because if that is the next course of action, everything shall be laid to rest. #200WT, #FP, the interviews we do with authors and the million and one things we can do out that I don’t have time to implement myself, that I can’t keep on top of alone, that I will try to do … if you believe in it and in me enough for me to do so.
I’d never ask you to help me hope. But now I’m asking you to tell me why I should.
But … please help me look over this mountain, no matter what lies on the other side.
If you’ve read this far, please … share your thoughts with me. You don’t know how desperately I need to know what you think about this, so … you can leave a comment on this post, or reach me on Twitter, or in our DM’s.
No matter what happens, you’ve all been part of my life for a long time now and I love you all so, so much. You are the best friends I’ve never had in my very lonely world 🙂

Lara Savine …

World of Creation with @khubbard91!

Hi! I’m K E Hubbard, a native Ohioan and a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, despite the fact that they haven’t won a game in two years. When I’m not doing research and development for my day job in emergency management, I’m writing fiction. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I’ve been a little of everything. I’m married to my college sweetheart, an auntie to two (soon to be three), a pianist, a terrible gardener, and dog mama to the sassiest little schnoodle named Georgia.

MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

KH: My writing takes me places I’ve never been and transfers me into worlds of my own creation. I’ve lived vicariously as an actor, a soldier, a CEO, a thief in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, and a guy who sees ghosts. I like when my characters shake me awake at night and beg me to tell their stories. I’m terribly introverted in real life, but I’m bold in my writing. I’m have no fear taking risks and traipsing into dangerous territory or shining a light on a social issue. I may not have the same traits as my characters, but I get to be every one of them. My favorite thing is when my words get a reaction from someone else, especially when they yell at me for twisting them into an emotional pretzel. That’s the best.

MM: So, what have you written?

KH: I’ve completed four novels with many little plot bunnies and half-finished works sitting idly in Google Drive. I recently finished a round of beta reader edits on a manuscript and I’m tidying it up to query for agent representation. I write flash fiction and short non-fiction pieces for my blog.

MM: When did you know writing was for you?

KH: I’ve always loved making up stories. I have an unbridled imagination and I played pretend for way longer than is socially acceptable. I went through a really hard time about five years ago where I felt like I’d lost myself, and one day this story slammed me in the face and demanded to be written. With absolutely no writing experience aside from what I learned in school, I put a pen to paper. I was hooked. It provided a creative outlet for me and I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve done.

MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

KH: My current work is Call When You Land, a story about Carson Kent, a celebrity actor who falls asleep on a flight and wakes up in one of his films. For seven days, he lives the lives of seven different characters, an escape from his hectic life. Problem is, he’s the only one who knows it’s a work of fiction, and the world he’s in may not be what it seems.
This story came into my life a couple years ago when I was in a music video rabbit hole on YouTube. A Duran Duran video came on called Girl Panic. Did you know they were still making music? I didn’t. The video featured supermodels being bad, partying in hotels, hanging out of sunroofs in ridiculously expensive cars. In one part, a model walks out into a crowd of fans, spots a woman, and goes up and plants a big kiss on her lips. I thought, wow, celebrity is really strange. We let famous people get away with things no one else would be allowed to do. From there emerged an idea about a celebrity who needs a bit of a perspective shift. By midnight that night, Carson Kent’s story was born and it flew off my fingertips.

MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?

KH: The first story I remember physically writing down was about a ladybug that gets washed away in the rain and ends up in a city park. That’s about the extent of my memory of it. In elementary school, I won a contest with a picture book I’d made and got to go to an event featuring the author Jack Prelutsky. Writing has always been in my blood and it took me until I was twenty-seven to consider it as more than a hobby. My first novel was so badly written I’m embarrassed I let anyone read it. I apologize to those beta readers often. They’re still my friends, so I guess that’s a good thing.

MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

KH: I’m a total pantser, both in writing and in life. I create a basic, mental outline and start a new idea in the place where it came to me. I tend to research as I go to fill in gaps or verify accuracy, and I write scenes out of sequence and piece them together. Things get a little tangled for me about three-quarters of the way through the draft and I create a roadmap for myself to bring all the plot lines together. I enjoy going on a ride with my characters and hanging out in their heads as they reveal their truth to me. They never cease to make my life difficult with their terrible choices. In my last manuscript, I had to step away because Carson decided to steal a police car. He left me a mess to clean up!

MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?

KH: I’m an over-writer, and I usually cut at least 10,000-15,000 words out of a first draft. I can often be found frolicking through fields of purple prose, so flash fiction forces me to be concise and stick to the parameters of the theme. It’s a really great exercise for combatting writer’s block, because managing 85,000 words can sometimes rust out my creativity. #FP and other writer hashtags have connected me to an amazing world of talented authors. It’s a privilege to be among them.

MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

KH: My inspiration is everywhere. Books, movies, TV shows, music even overheard conversations can spark a fresh new idea in my mind. One of the most vital things for my writing is to step away from the computer and get out into the world, watch people, listen, eavesdrop a little. I force myself out of my bubble so I can observe my surroundings and write about them on a deeper level. Immersing yourself in the universe brings the words out.

MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and …why? What about it really hits home? 🙂

KH: My absolute favorite piece of advice is this: The character always wants to relieve tension, so do the opposite of what would achieve that. It’s a great method for building conflict, and especially helpful when a scene simply isn’t working. If I’m stuck, I ask myself, what would this character want to happen in this situation? What would force them into a corner and elicit a response? In my last draft, my critique partner pointed out I’d let my main character get away with his bad behavior in his exchanges with the supporting characters. I rewrote three scenes where the others around him reacted to his nonsense and it made for funnier, more realistic action.

MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

KH: It has taken me years to learn patience in regards to writing. Like any other skill, writing is a craft, and you have to rewrite and rewrite and edit and cut and bleed a little bit to get better. That process takes time and effort. It’s sometimes disheartening to see people in the place I long to be, but it’s up to me to work toward that goal and achieve it. As they say, publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.

MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

KH: Sometimes I just have to push through it. I always try to look forward to the next opportunity, the next story needing told, the next connection that might help make my writing spectacular. When I’m stuck, I’ll write a thousand words of trash no one will ever see, allowing my brain to spill out without stopping to judge myself. Sharing my work with others and collaborating with writers always helps shake things loose. Connecting with writers and commiserating about the craft has been the biggest blessing to my writing. Another pair of eyes gives me a perspective I hadn’t considered before.

MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

KH: I rehearse all of my dialogue out loud and act out most of my stories first before I do anything else. The physicality of acting something out, combined with getting the beat and cadence of dialogue just right, helps me visualize the scene, the nuances, the character quirks, and the underlying themes. All my characters have voices (done poorly, I’m sure) and I would die a thousand deaths before I let anyone see or hear me do this.

MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!

KH: I have an affinity for pink flamingos. They are ridiculous, stand out from a crowd, and they are proud of who they are.

MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

KH: Just do it. I know that seems simple, but if you have a story, write it. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about what stirs your passions. At the end of the day, you can’t write for a market, an agent, a publisher, or your family. You have to do it for yourself.

MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

KH: I’m attracted to character driven stories, both on screen and in print. I tend to read across genres and I’m not loyal to anything in particular. I read what grabs my interest and I love being surprised. I like books that take something familiar and put a unique spin on it.

MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?

KH: I was fortunate to beta read for a wonderful writer named Evie Drae, who I met serendipitously through Twitter and happens to live a few miles from me! Her story is addicting and full of heart and I can’t wait to share it with others when it comes out. I’m in the middle of As Bright as Heaven, a story of a woman and her three daughters who help run a funeral parlor in Philadelphia during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Though I don’t typically read historical fiction, this is a time period I’m not familiar with, and I’m captivated by the characters. For research for my last novel, I read Skinny Boy by Gary Grahl, about a young man’s experience with anorexia. It’s raw and honest and his narration of his eating disorder’s voice is brilliant.

MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?

KH: It’s a tough world out there. You will face rejection and criticism. Your writing won’t be for everyone. They always say you have to develop a thick skin, but I think what you need to do more than that is believe in yourself and what you do. Best of luck to everyone wherever they are in their journey!

MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

KH: You can follow me on Twitter @khubbard91, or my blog at www.kehubbard.com!

The Pain Collector
By Karen Hubbard

They said her name was perfect for a Pain Collector, because Tuesday was the worst day of the week. She wasn’t bothered by the joke. It was impossible to rattle someone who spent most of her waking hours among the hardest moments of other people’s lives.
Tuesday passed through the hallowed halls of the trophy room where the most prized shards were housed, observing all the colors of pain. The sparkling golds of the Ultimate Sacrifice. The cool jades of Misplaced Expectations. The deep blue of Heartbreak. There was a gap in the display case, and it was her mission to leave the largest shard of pain there, solidifying her as a legend among her peers.
The opening bell rang and she hurried into the conference room, sliding in next to her competitor, Reese. He grinned at Tuesday. “Daydreaming in the trophy room again?”
“You know that space is mine,” she said.
He rolled his eyes. “We’ll see about that. I have a good feeling about today.”
Naima, her supervisor, brought the room to attention, and the cadets quieted. A familiar rush of excitement swept over Tuesday. She’d requested more challenging assignments and knew today was her day. She hid her hands under the table to keep her anxious fidgeting from catching Reese’s attention.
Tuesday held her breath as Naima doled out assignments. Gunshot victims. Home invasion. Terminal illness. All the misery of humanity.
“Wounded veteran returning from combat. Left leg amputation, shrapnel wounds, and a traumatic brain injury,” said Naima to Reese.
Reese slugged Tuesday in the thigh. Sheshook her head, wracked with envy. No doubt he’d return to base with the highest collection and the most points. Not only could he collect the pain from the soldier, but everyone who came in the room. Tuesday prayed her assignment at least leveled them up.
Naima’s eyes landed on her. “Tuesday, I’d like you to attend a second trimester miscarriage in progress.”
Tuesday swallowed a gasp. That was it? Nothing more? She avoided Reese’s sideways stare and forced a smile on her lips.
When Naima dismissed the cadets for deployment, Tuesday loitered until the room was nearly empty. She didn’t get a chance to speak before Naima approached and said, “I know this isn’t your usual assignment, but I think it’s crucial for someone as skilled as you to be there.”
“But there won’t be anything to collect,” Tuesday protested.
The wise supervisor gave her a soft smile. “Do your best.”
Tuesday reeled as she transferred to the hospital. She fingered the buckle on her satchel. She was better than this. She’d return to post before anyone else with a half empty bag and nothing to show for her efforts.
A mournful scream pricked her ear. She followed the sound, wiggling her fingers into her protective gloves. No collector could risk getting injured by the sharp side of someone else’s pain. It was too dangerous.
Tuesday laced her boots to the knee, unprepared for what she’d walk into. Stealing a breath, she opened the door to the patient’s room and had to scramble on top of the counter. Ruby red pain poured from the mother’s chest, flowing onto the floor, several inches thick. At her core was a black void, a permanent wound Tuesday would never be able to remove.
Pain flooded the room. It crept up the colorful scrubs of the nurses attending her. It stained their gloved hands. Fear gripped Tuesday’s throat. In all her years, she’d never seen anything like it.
The father-who-should’ve-been wrapped himself around his wife. A bright, thrumming orb nestled in near his heart, but it didn’t leave his body. He insulated it from her.
As the pain cooled and hardened, Tuesday jumped down from her perch and stabbed a heel into the sheath. She lifted the broken fragments with their toothed edges and filled her satchel. The shards rubbed together, the grinding sound making Tuesday’s jaw tighten.
No sooner did she clean all the pieces from the floor, another fresh round exploded from the mother. The others did their best to comfort her, but their words fell flat and expired against the swirling embers of her pain. Tuesday worked at the glowing edge inside the father, but he wouldn’t release it, as if he wanted to keep it for himself.
The loss was over in seconds, it seemed, but emotions strangled the room. Tuesday followed a nurse down the hall. The woman doubled over against the gurney, and Tuesday rushed to scrape off the pain clinging to the nurse’s back. Tuesday knew the nurse had a job to do, so she freed her from it—at least for now.
Her satchel bulged. She rearranged the shards to fit more. The weight of it nearly broke her shoulder as she carted it around.
It seemed like days passed before Tuesday ambled back to headquarters with her collection. The clunk her satchel made when she handed it over for processing stayed in the bottom of her belly. Normally, she’d be thrilled with her achievement, finding Reese to brag about it, but today, she wanted to be left alone.
As Tuesday removed her protective outerwear,her blood turned to slush. A nick in her glove revealed a small slice across the fold of her palm. She closed her hand up. This had to be documented immediately. Her carelessness would negate her pain haul.
She paced the floor, unable to think. A sudden ache seized her heart. She went to her knees. A hollow emptiness tore apart her insides. Tears welled in her eyes and she wept until she gagged.
Tuesday composed herself when the door opened. She brushed the tears from her eyes and kept her back to the entrant.
“Hiding out because you’re embarrassed at how bad you did today?” Reese chided.His footfalls slapped the concrete floor as he rounded the room. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Tuesday rose, and a smile betrayed the grief snaking through her body.
Reese studied her. “You look terrible. Are you sick?”
She clasped her hands to hide her mistake. “I feel great.”
His gaze fell to her middle. Before she could stop him, he reached out and wrenched her hand forward, exposing her cut. Reese shivered and dropped her hand.
“You got nicked?” he said, eyes wide. “You have to report it.”
Tuesday brought her fist to her chest. “No way. I’m going to lose all my points. I don’t feel anything, anyway.”
Reese carded his fingers through his hair. “If anyone finds out—”
“No one will find out,” Tuesday snapped. “And you’re not going to tell anyone.”
She fled the room, avoiding everyone in her path. Naima tried to borrow a moment to congratulate her, but her feet didn’t stop moving until she arrived home.
Tuesday dove into her bed, wriggling down under the blankets until she was completely cocooned. She massaged the throbbing place in her palm. She shook to the bedrock of her soul. She had never known pain like this. In her imagination came the things that were, the places that mattered, the skeletons of what could be and never materialized. Her chest caved with the weight of the failure and disappointment.
Darkness descended with the setting sun and Tuesday’s faith in the world was shattered. She tried to block it out, to shield herself from feeling someone else’s pain, but it burrowed into her.
Sleep was her only escape from the thoughts plaguing her.
When her eyes fluttered open, sadness found her quickly. She pushed herself up, feeling everything at once, then nothing at all. A heavy longing clung to something deep in her, something granular she’d never accessed before.
In the early morning light, she made her way back to headquarters, dreading her usual gentle teasing with Reese. Pain was different now, real and alive and flowing through her body. Tuesday hesitated outside the trophy room. She placed her hand on the knob but couldn’t twist it. She wasn’t the person she was yesterday.
She forced herself to enter and stopped just inside the door. The once shimmering, spectacular colors were dull. Ugly. Razor sharp and jagged. She hugged herself and advanced, wanting to rip it all down and smash it into thousands of pieces.
Tuesday gasped when she saw it. A shard of the mother’s thick red pain. On a pedestal. Grief stabbed through her like the pointed end glistening in the case’s spotlight. She considered punching the glass and stealing it, letting it cut her so she could take what she knew she could never remove.
Her skin iced over when the bell rang. She slogged to her place next to Reese, heartbroken.
Keeping his eyes forward, he said, “Did you make a report?”
She shook her head, stomach curdling.
He blew out a breath. “This is bad. Real bad.”
“I know,” Tuesday whispered. “I feel…”
Everything.
Naima barked a command, and Tuesday knew exactly where her leader’s gaze rested. Tuesday’s temples pounded during assignments. She glanced around in horror at the collector’s jostling, the smug comments about gaining the highest score, the biggest shard, setting a record. It was so much more than this. More than their flippant comments.
“Tuesday, you’re going to—”
“No!” Tuesday cried, cutting Naima off.
The room fell silent, all eyes on her. Naima placed her hand on her chest in offense.
“What are you doing?” Reese said through his teeth.
Tuesday stood, throwing her chair back. She slammed her fist on the table. “You don’t understand. It’s real. The pain is real. And it…” She didn’t have the vocabulary. “It hurts.”
“What are you talking about?” Naima asked, eyes narrowed in concern.
Agony coiled around Tuesday, squeezing her heart and constricting her lungs. She bolted out the door, past the trophy room, running until she couldn’t catch her breath. It didn’t matter if she stole the shard of pain on the stand. The pain stayed with her.
She streamed across town, through busy intersections and around people who gaped at her, until she arrived in a place distant from headquarters. Tuesday screamed until she feared her throat would tear. Her face was soaked with bitter tears.
It wasn’t fair. She had taken the pain, but it would never leave the woman, the husband, the nurses who did their duties that day. It would never leave Tuesday, either.
A little red rock formed inside her, growing, burning. Nothing soothed or relieved it. It seemed lost, like it didn’t have a home, banging around without direction, yearning to be free.
It was then she knew. She knew the mother’s pain, and why it was different than anything she’d seen in all her years of collection.
It was love with nowhere to go.

#GuestPostsOnMM with @musedcynosure!

 

“I’m a carbon-based bipedal life form descended from an ape.”
-Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy)

 

People generally know me as “Sabby”.
For pocket money, I have a day job of an engineer. By the evening, I transform into a guy who is “Jack of many trades, master of none”. I’m not an expert and never took any training but as a hobby, I’m into photography, sketching, painting. Also I know few dance forms. In the free time, either I read or go for running. Once in a while, I like to participate in marathons.
I started scribbling about 9 years back when I joined college. It all started as I wasn’t much of chit-chat guy, not that I am right now either, so that’s when I started visiting my college library after classes and rest is history since then.

Why you do what you do and why it inspires you so much?
Umm… I feel it’s more of a call from within. I’ve tried writing articles or creatives occasionally, but never got the kick. Somehow along-with other things, I started composing and poetry, and that’s when I realized that people are reaping the same message I wanted to convey but with the poetry, it was more like they’re adapting the essence of it in their own way. In an article, what writer says is conveyed directly. However, in poetry, reader has a job to decipher the meaning in his/her own way and not the way a poet wants it to; because it is pretty much the case that ups and downs in the readers life is different from those of a person who wrote it. But final message everyone needs can be similar.
I think that explains the weapon of my choice. Plus it’s beautiful throughout.
Another reason I love writing poetry is because it is never perfect but still it gives you a sense of completeness and perfection.

How you choose your topics?
To be honest, this is still a mystery I’m trying to unravel. It has either been an inspiration from a random thought from my mind or inspired from the life of people around me. Basically it can be a random sketch that I’ve drawn on which I wrote a poem, www.musedcynosure.com/2016/02/his-futile-anxiety. Some other times, it was inspired from a photograph I took, www.musedcynosure.com/2015/09/dawn.
There were times I’ve been in discussion with a random group, like once the discussion was on dark erotica and later I came up with few lines, www.musedcynosure.com/2016/09/deaths-desires. So the pattern is pretty random to conclude at any single point.

How it inspires your life and life of people around you?
I’ve a curious mind and as a result I end up exploring a lot. One of my hobbies is to find the link between 2 or more things and try to build something new from them. Writing poetry has helped me in providing that link. Be it photography or a sketch or a painting, one can describe them in rhythmic manner. As a result, I’ve been successful in learning lot of things on my own. I think this is what has kept me motivated for a long time “a desire to learn something new”.
Every once in a while, my hobbies have inspired few friends to break the barrier they’re afraid of and look at the world with new pair of eyes. Believe me, this can be therapeutic too. My marathon journey started because of similar reasons. Right now I know 3 friends, who have started running marathons with me on regular basis. One of my friend started learning Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Can you name someone you admire in your field? Anyone you think we’d love to know about?
Before naming the person, I’d like to tell another secret of my life. I’m pretty much of a nerd with high interest in mathematics and physics. Even few of my friends call me real life replica of “Leonard Hofstadter” from the series “The Big Bang Theory”. The hobbies I mentioned are just a distraction for me when I won’t be doing what I really love to do, i.e., exploring mysteries of nature via science.
Anyway, so coming back to the original question. There are 2 person whom I admire the most from my field. First one is Richard Feynman, who was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics. Second one is Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, Hyperloop, etc. The list is pretty big and I won’t bore you with all such stuff.
What people don’t know that both of them have a very versatile personality. They have taught me how to learn new things on the go and apply them in your life. I’d like to quote one random quality of both of them as an example of their versatile nature. Richard Feynman might be known for his contributions in Physics, but rarely anyone knew that he was an amazing bongo player too. Similarly, Elon Musk has combined his skills to come up with many new tech marvels which people wouldn’t have thought of 10 years ago.
So, when I look at these legends, they inspire me to cultivate the creative side of me, acting as a boost to make me do, what I do, the way I do.