Storytime from Ancient Sumer

After another story, the Queen of Heaven was brooding. Her ego had gotten ahead of her, her pride a thing stronger than humans can understand, she made a mistake. And her mistake caused her sister pain. Her mistake killed her brother in law. Her mistake was a mistake that her brothers and nephews could have made and gone utterly unpunished. When a man seeks power, or avenges his own ego, he is praised. When a woman does? Well. Don’t we all know.

And so the Queen of Heaven sulked.

Then she opened her ear to the Underworld. The place from which no one returns. She heard from down there the sound of her sister suffering. Her sister moaned without comfort. Her sister wept without succor, because her sister was the Queen of Hell and hated for her part of the natural order. Her kingdom, within the belly of a great beast, the corpse of a dragon, was a place of sorrow and dust. They ate ash and had no water or beer to drink.

And so the Queen of Heaven knew that her sister lay in her chamber, suffering the agonies of birth, alone. The agonized of mourning alone. The agonies of hating her Heavenly sister, alone.

And it was right and just for the Queen of Hell to hate her sister. A hate that the Queen of Heaven wished more than anything to answer for.

So she went to the great men of the world, the gods, and asked them what to do. They did not care. The concerns of sisters meant very little to them when they did not need Hell’s punishment or Heaven’s strength. They thought that the Queen of Heaven sought out her sister to take her kingdom, or otherwise cause strife. The kings of men decided that the Queen of Heaven was a queen of war. And so she was. But was not warlike in all things, no matter what the kings and their scribes might say.

She was guilty, she was wrong, and there was only one way she could think to answer the hate and maybe ease her sister’s pain. So she gathered herself and dressed for her brother-in-law’s funeral. She wore her many gifts, the objects of power that marked her as the Queen of Heaven. Not to appear boastful, but because she meant to give over the whole of herself to her sister.

She confided only in her companion, a woman close to her, and said, “if I do not return in three days, tell the gods what happened to me.” Did she want their rescue? Surely not. Perhaps she said it only so they would not mourn her disappearance, but only their loss of her. If they mourned at all.

After all, the road to Hell was not a place one returns from. Why should it be any different for the gods?

And she traveled from Heaven, across the Steppes which were also her domain. She held her gown close to her, and flew along the night breezes to where the air grew stale and death settled in.

She stood at the gates to Hell. Stood before the teeth of the horry, infinite corpse in which all of Hell was contained.

Here, closer to her, the Queen of Heaven heard the Queen of Hell moaning. Hell’s pain so terrible that Heaven’s bones ached.

The Queen of Heaven pounded on the gates, the teeth, shouting in her booming voice. “Give me entrance! Tell my sister I am here for the funeral! I am here for whatever will become of me!”

The guards of the doors shrank. Afraid of the Queen, but also afraid of their own. “You cannot be granted access. You cannot come to the world of the dead. It is not your place,” they hissed at her through dragon teeth.

They would not budge. Nor would they report to their own Queen. The Queen of Heaven, suffering with her sister, screamed and it broke the sky awhile, spilling water across the land at risk for flood. She was as tall as the sky as she stood at the dragon’s teeth.

“So help me. Tell my sister I am here to see her. Tell her I am here to see her, and if you do not tell her, I will rip down these gates with my bare hands. The dead will rush out to overcome the living. I will destroy all order here if you will not simply go and tell my sister I am here.”

The guards recoiled again, holding their hands over their ears, not able to hear all the Queen’s words from the ringing in their ears. Could she pry apart the dragon’s teeth? Could she flood the world with death? Maybe. Maybe she could. So they rushed off to the Queen of Hell to tell her what transpired.

The Queen of Hell lay on her bed, a crude stone thing, missing hey or mattress or even blanket to cover her nakedness. Her hair, she pulled up with a band to the top of her head, and thrashed and rolled in agony.

“Our Beloved Queen.” The guards whispered. “Your sister, the Queen of Heaven is demanding entrance. She says, should you not let her in, she will destroy the gates and the dead will spill into the world of the living. What would become of us should she do so?!” It wasn’t the truth, the words the Queen of Haven had cried, but perhaps they simply could not have heard her.

The Queen of Hell sat up, groaning, the swell of her stomach enough to prevent her from standing. She listened to their words and sneered. She ground her teeth together and slapped her tight with the palm of her hand.

“Is THAT what she said? Demanding her way into my domain after everything… After EVERYTHING she has done!”

“Indeed your most holiness. She comes in full regalia and stands and your gate, shrieking for entrance! She is as tall as the sky and might well make good on her promise!” Mostly, as the guardians of the gates into hell, they were worried about their professions. Without the gates, what would they guard?

The Queen of Hell sneered, then turned back to her side on the uncomfortable stone. “So be it. I care not. Let her come. But bar all the gates to her at first. Allow her through each one only after you have taken from her the Regalia she bares. Arrogant. Prideful. Uh. I am in too much pain for this.” The Queen of Hell waved the guards away.

And how they were gleeful in their rewards. The Queen of Heaven would be humiliated before them! Their ashen hands would touch the great Regalia of heaven! They would see to it that the Queen suffered on her journey into Hell. What pleasure!

So the secured the gates along the way, coming to the first of them to jeer at the Queen of Heaven. “Your sister will allow you entrance. On the condition that you respect the ways of Hell are not the ways of Heaven, and you will obey the ways of Hell in all ways.”

Her thunderous crying had ended, and the Queen of Heaven was contemplative for many hours. Finally, she said, “I agree.”

And a god’s promise is powerful. At least as powerful as the god, and the Queen of Heaven was very terribly powerful.

The first gate opened and the guardian stood there, his boney hands out. “Give me your crown of the steppes. Bow your head and you enter into death.”

The Queen of Heaven was flustered. “Why do you take my crown?”

“It is the way of death, and you will not question it.”

Her crown was a gift, and it allowed her dominion over the steppe and granted her free and safe passage. But. This was the way of Hell, and so, she took off her crown and her hair fell over her shoulders. She bowed her head and walked through the first gate.

The second gate opened ahead of her, and a guardian waited there. “Give me the lapis beads from around your neck. You have no need for displays of wealth within.”

The Queen of Heaven did not balk this time, and loosed the beads from her neck. Lapis was beautiful, precious, and reflected the trade between lands that make civilization what it is. Civilization is, after all, for the living so far as she knew, and this was Hell.

At the third gate, the guardian demanded to wipe away the kohl from her eyes. “Your lovely ointment is called, sometimes, “Let Him Come.” You have no need of that here.”

Kohl was important. It blocked out the sun and soothed the eyes. It made the face lovely and drew attention. Men and women and those in between, such as the Queen herself, wore it. She’d heard among the mortals of huge social upheaval over lack of access to it. But there was no sun in the underworld, and no man would come. There was nothing to do but wipe away her face.

As the fourth gate opened, the guardian there looked smug, arms folded at the humbled goddess. “Take the breast pins from your gown and give them over. You do not need them now.”

The Queen of Heaven trembled at the though. For a mortal woman, pins were a potent gift to a wife, showing to the world the wealth of her husband and family. They held her gown closed and granted her modesty when she sought it. Among the mortals, some times a divorce lead to a man taking his wife’s pins, disconnecting her from his wealth. A humiliation.

The Queen’s pins were her own, reflected her own wealth and her own power. She could not divorce herself from a husband in that way, but in a way, she gave away her pins and with it, the right to the husband she left behind. Her gown fell open, but for her belt of birthstones.

The guardian at the fifth gate watched as the Queen of Heaven approached, a wizen vision of what she once was, how slow she shuffled, and how her arms hung at her side. The guardian sighed, pushing open the gate. “Queen of Heaven, you are tired, but this suffering is nearly over. Give to me the heavy gold bands at your wrists and ankles. They do nothing but drag you down.”

Once, the Queen of Heaven thought, the shining bangles had a meaning, a purpose. They were one of her Regalia. Her holy gifts. The symbols of civilization as she was the seat of that power.

But now the meaning was lost, and all they were to her were burdens. She let them slip from her hands, stepped out of them at her feet and walked on.

The fifth gate stood open, unguarded as the Queen approached. “Hello?” She wheezed. Her lungs had begun to fail her as her vitality drained away in this place of death. “Come and tell me what you’ll take from me. I haven’t the strength to wait!”

A guardian, hesitant, crept into the Queen’s sight. Skittishly, it approached. “Queen of Heaven I.” It looked away. “Hell demands that you give up your belt of gemstones.”

Among mortals, a belt like her’s was a gift men expected to show respect to them. As the Queen could take on the beard, a phallic, and be as a man, she wore that belt proudly. To give it away was to give away one of her most sacred gifts. Her deepest liberation.

She hadn’t the strength to undo it. “I cannot. Come and take it. I give it willingly.” The guardian hesitated, afraid to approach the goddess, then finally shuffled that way and helped her remove it.

Her gown hung open, the last of her Regalia. What marked her as Queen even more than her crown. She did not care. The sound of her sister’s moaning, her own sin, pulled her further into Hell even as her body withered away.

At the last gate, another guardian waited, smiling liciviously at the Queen. Even her atrophy did not prevent the guardian from enjoying her humiliation. As it is with some in Hell and on Earth. “Give up your gown, Queen. Enter the chambers of Hell bowed and naked. You are now no better than any dead being.”

She barely regarded the noxious being, shrugging her robe off with little thought to it. The guardian had been right, as the Queen passed through the last gate, she was bent, nearly crawling, her healthy shape, her flesh turned to ash and leather. It was in that state, naked and dead, all but crawling, that she, the Queen of Heaven came to the chambers of her sister.

image: to be continued written on an arrow in the style of JoJo’s bizarre adventure.

I’m not a subject expert, anthropologist, historian or really anything. This is just my take as an artist and storyteller, okay? For the love of the gods, don’t use anything you read here for like, a school paper or anything.

I told you a story. Or at least my version of the story. I’m not from the cradle of civilization, any more than most earthlings are. You may have heard other versions of this story. Some of them paint the characters within as Just Awful People.

Meh.

Here’s what I know, right. Myths and religion are made by people to teach lessons, explain concepts, and maybe MAYBE document something cool that happened with a little bit of flair added to make the story sizzle. Then another group of people take those stories and add a layer. Change a term. Add a meaning. Reflect on a character train, or, let’s be honest, use some part of the story to support that propaganda. You can see this whole cycle happen live, everyday, on social media, right? How much do we love to see powerful women taken down a peg or two. And how often do we not see the work someone might go through to seek forgiveness in favor of quick cancelations before business-as-usual.

So here’s my interpretation. From my readings. And my understanding of the parable, the symbolism, and my understanding of how people kinda are sometimes. Sometimes you have to destroy to start over. Sometimes you have to destroy the self, metaphorically, obviously.

One of the places I read up on this stuff when forming my version of the poem. If you wanna.

Belts and Pins as Gendered Elements of Clothing in Third and Second  millennia Mesopotamia

Some examples of ‘chest pins’ used to hold a gown closed. From the article above.

Hey, Anyone Remember Anne Rice?

That sure is a stupid title for a blog, isn’t it?

So. You understand I write horror. And if you clock my age-I’m over 40 now-you assume, “Oh, Mena def was obsessed with Anne Rice’s vampire books.”

Interview With The Vampire Images Reveal First Look At AMC Series
Louie and Lestat from the new Interview with a Vampire? I am stoked. I am so stoked. Cannot wait for them to make-out.

Valid. I did read most of those books. I even liked them. But your assumption that the vampires were the beginning and end for me, you are sadly mistaken.

Anne Rice's 'Lives of the Mayfair Witches' Gets Greenlight at AMC - Variety
I had these covers? I think? The Witching Hour was 800 pages, and every time I read a page in the middle, two more grew in the back.

I was about those Mayfair Witches. Rowan Mayfair was a fucking mess, made all the worst choices, but at least she spent WAY too much time thinking about architecture.-Can relate. Also, she was a ghostfucker, so obviously I was addicted pretty much right away. I read the entire series more than once. I haven’t touched the books in years-and years and years. So I’m sure there are parts of the series I would not love at all anymore. (I remember something about aborted babies and shit, the fiction is not perfect is all I’m saying.)

But. Generations of weird women with some kind of curse over them with fucked up fucking relationships and magic? Uhhh. These books were where I wanted to BE. 

I loved the series so much, my blessed mother got me the Witches’ of Mayfair Companion. 

The Witches' Companion: Ramsland, Katherine, Rice, Anne: 9780345406248:  Amazon.com: Books
Bless you Kathrine Ramsland. An image of the Witches’ Companion

The Companion was this huge fucking tome, too big for a book shelf. I remember my copy would warp with its own gravity if I tried to stand it upright. I think I’m remembering that right. 

So what was the companion? Someone went through the Witches series and picked out anything that was obscure or important to the text. I had no fucking idea what a keyhole door was, but the book told me. I was fucking living. It was like I had Anne sitting next to me whispering in my ear “that’s an allusion to Dante” or whatever.

Recall this was a time before you could just search up anything on your tiny pocket phone. I had the internet, but it was all Angelfire sites and AOL chat games for me in those days.

Anyway, that book set me on FIRE when I was young. Of course, all the stuff in the book was more or less on the page in the series. But we’re talking thousands of pages, and I was still too scared to ruin a book by annotating within it.-I was young, forgive me. But to think that all that stuff was just… in there. I marveled at how it worked. How did she KNOW so many things? How did she know about all this… stuff? I imagined her brain was like this overstuffed library full of sexy naked men who could pull up any obscure detail for her instantly from the library that was her brain. 

Two shirtless men looking flirty, from inside Anne Rice’s brain-library maybe.

I’m 40 now. I’ve done a lot of writing since the days of pouring over that companion and marveling at brilliance. I know the secrets. 

The secret is… multiple drafts, rewrites, and research. 

Me, I said this, just now

I mean, I can’t be certain. I’ve never actually visited Anne Rice’s brain.–The real estate lady who helped us get our house (THANK YOU SO MUCH) helped her buy a house once in New Orleans. So. That’s as close as I’m gonna get. So, hey, maybe she DID just know all that stuff and get it pitch perfect on the first draft. 

But I’m doubtful. 

I imagine it was more like me. Rush through that first draft. (Or linger on it. IDK. She might be a thoughtful first-drafter. I’ve heard of them.) Then on second, third, the desire to punch things up means adding references. My first drafts are often filled with these [NAME] or [WORD] tags so I can go back later and do the research. Or get a second opinion on something. Or look through the last book and figure that shit out. Or reference a character I haven’t written yet in a scene that I haven’t gotten to yet.

Point is, let me peel back the curtain a little to talk about my influences, the things that influenced this book, and make a companion for myself. I’ll try to talk a little about craft too, as I go, because writing craft is almost as interesting as just writing. Or reading.

Is all this self-indulgent? Sure. But this is my blog so like, what else would you expect? 😛

Speaking of, pre-order Reaching In on Amazon right now! (We’ll have Reaching In other places too if Amazon is not your place. Don’t sweat it!)

Writing Through Cracks


Movement from the other side of the wall–an apartment away–drew your attention to something you hadn’t noticed before. A small crack in your own wall. Not small enough that it should have gone unnoticed. In your room now with the lights off, you can see light coming through the tiny hole. You peek, then realize the height is awkward, taking a knee to peer through.

The crack is long and narrow, but just enough for you to see a dressing table and a mirror in the corner of a sunny bedroom next door. The mirror shows a closet door, but not the bed. The closet door is slightly open. Your neighbor has gone out to work, you heard through the thin walls an hour ago. The closet door is open and it’s dark inside. Far darker inside than it should be, the closet door faces the window and you’d think it would be illuminated by the early morning light.

Something moves inside the closet. A heavy, violent twitch to the left.  Something in the gloom past the closet door jerked left. Large. Too large to be a cat or a dog secreted into a bedroom despite the apartment’s policy against pets. You watch as long as you can, the rush of blood drumming behind your ears telling you your body was responding to stress. You strain to see more, to make out a shape. Is it the size of a human being? An adult? A child? And either way, why no discernible features? Blinking, did some of the darkness shine? Shine like black plastic? Like a trash bag? You’re not sure. You strain more, seeking something, anything, a shape in the foreign shadow to explain the thump.  You’re looking through a crack into a bedroom through a mirror into blackness.

Nothing. There are no answers for you in the impossible dark.


As you might now, my partner and I have our Patreon going, where we’re making games, fiction, and offering aid to other designers and writers. It’s going better than expected so far and it’s allowed us to try out some more experimental things.

Currently, I’m working through weirdly focused collection of short stories and micro fictions set in an unusual apartment building in San Jenaro, the shared city of both my novel Reaching Out and Olivia’s #iHunt series. The Rising Palms Apartment building is a Golden Age of Movies Art Deco behemoth in the middle of Palo Verde and a spit from downtown San Jenaro. Its beauty in detail is sometime under-appreciated due to its girth. It takes up nearly a city block on its own. The Rising Palm has 13 12 floors. It’s on the bus line. It’s very near San Jenaro County Teaching Hospital and a lot of brilliant nightlife. Despite that, its apartments are very affordable. You’d think with all that going for it, the Rising Palms would have a waitlist for apartments a mile long.

And yet.

And yet.

Locals know better.

Life within the squat modernist tower is odd. Odd and perhaps, dangerous. Of course, the Rising Palm is a liminal space, from sub-basement to 13th 12th floor.

This collection of stories will take place within the building. I think we’re going to be experimenting with presentation. We think of storytelling as an oral tradition, and writing as what? Visual? Not really? Or at least not necessarily. I think it’s interesting to see writing as sometimes a visual art and sometimes not. Which is probably a post for another time.

Right now I want to focus on perspective, point of view, and narrowing the lens of your storytelling so tightly that it becomes a laser on your meaning, mood, or tale.

Note, I’m describing (a) technique(s) I’m using in this collection of stories. I’m sharing these thoughts with you not because I believe this is how all writing MUST be, but because it’s another trick you can put in your bag. I hope I can explain why and when you’d use it and maybe suggestions on when you shouldn’t bother as well? Let’s see how far we get before I get distracted by cat videos or whatever. You could call this a few things? Fixed perspective narration? That’s the closest thing I found on Google Scholar, but it isn’t quite enough. So at the risk of renaming a thing that’s probably already got a name, let’s call this writing technique through cracks storytelling. Why? I had to pick something.

I can give you a few examples of what I’m picturing here; a M.A.S.H. episode seen through the eyes of a patient, the moment in a Halloween when we become Jamie Lee Curtis looking through slats in a closet door, scanning the room for signs that The Shape has found us. I think you get the idea at least as far as film goes. In terms of writing, getting the feel of these moments is something else entirely. I want that feel, and I want to present it to you in this fiction collection as best I can. It may work, it may not work, but here’s the guidelines I’ll be experimenting with as I write.

Of note: The flash I put at the top there is a rough demonstration not perfection of the form. (Because I don’t know what that is yet.) I won’t be writing in second person for my collection, I don’t think. And you don’t have to either. I mean. You don’t have to do anything. I’m not your mother.

Keep it Short

Less than 5,000 words. Probably. Less than 3,000 is better.

Stay Where the Story Takes Place

Through cracks requires a very limited setting. You can’t peek through the curtain’s of a neighbor’s house and see everything. You only see the kitchen. Or the bedroom. The reader can only see the fixed point you the author decide to set them in. Imagine the space clearly in your mind before you write. Sketch it on a napkin. Since the whole of your story is set in one place, being sure you know where everything. This will help later as you’re avoiding bland dialogue, controlling what’s unsaid and staying out of characters heads’ which are all important parts of through cracks writing. But most importantly, if you know what the narrow space looks like, you know exactly where your reader is relative to what can be seen and control the limits of what they know. You are in control of all the reader sees. A window as mentioned already, the image slightly blurred by dirt on the glass. Through a keyhole. Of course everyone knows you see ghosts through keyholes, so be careful with that. Stories through cracks would need to take place, probably, in one room. If you’re using through cracks only as a smaller element of a larger story wouldn’t have to be so limited, of course. (I’m currently planning for single-room stories in my current experiment, but admittedly I’ll be playing with that rule my ownself, so of course you should as well.)

No Thoughts, No Projection

Note: In editing the first formal piece for this project, let me tell you. This is really hard.

Through cracks lets the reader see what there is to see, hear what there is to hear, and maybe feel what there is to feel, but nothing more than that. Brace yourself, because this is where it gets really challenging depending on your existing writing style. The audience is never, ever directly told what the characters are thinking or feeling. Remove any ‘ly’ words that give emotional context to an action or a statement. That’s not to say it’s bad to do those things. It’s often great in great writing. But for this technique, it is tipping your hand too much. The reader needs the feeling that they are limited in what they’re seeing and understanding. It’s GOOD that they feel things are up to interpretation. Your job is to give them the clues and information necessary to bring about 85% of your audience to come to the same basic conclusion while still harboring those delicious absurd fan theories. If it’s important, broadcast it through sensory details or dialogue. If you’ve ever read some fiction and found yourself wondering, “how do we know this?” than you know what needs to be cut with this technique. While I’m not 100% an advocate of always show and never tell, in this experiment, we’re leaning hard on show  over tell. Perhaps it’s extreme? Let’s see how it goes.

No He Said, She Shouted – Only Stage Directions

This is loosely related in the now show or tell end of things. Don’t use “she said.” Skip “he asked.” And certainly don’t  “he ejaculated!”  No real need to use replacements for the word “said.” If not said or asked or laughed or grunted or whatever, what do you do instead?

Nothing. I mean, not nothing. But default back to see what can be seen and hear what can be heard.

One, these should be pretty short scenes with minimal characters. How many people can you fit in a small apartment bedroom? Not that many I hope. A back and forth with strong characterization right in the dialogue should tell you a lot. If it feels like it’s lacking, I’ll refer you back to showing the reader what they can see. Where is Wade while he’s talking to Sara. What is he interacting with. At what point exactly did Sara start frowning. Imagine a white room where two actors are reading a set of lines to each other. Maybe they’re reading with emotions, but if they’re simply standing perfectly still not interacting with their space, using no facial expressions, those moving words still feel disconnected. What do they touch? Where are their hands? Are they not smiling when they should be and what does that imply? At what point do they stand up, or shift in their seat. Human beings don’t actually hold very still for long stretches of times. When used subtly, stage directions like this will broadcast loud and clear both who is talking and what they’re feeling without getting inside their head.

Don’t Apologize for the Unsaid

What you can see or otherwise detect with your senses are important. Where the fun work comes in, for the writer, is what cannot be seen or heard or understood. Do not apologize for what’s left aside and goes unspoken. A pile of puzzle pieces is interesting to many readers, but a mostly finished puzzle with a few oddly shaped holes are even more tantalizing. In this case, the reader can make out the picture on the puzzle on their own and leave it at that, but they’ll think about those holes. The missing spaces. The whys and but hows that linger so long as you don’t point out what’s left unanswered by explaining it isn’t there. Sometimes you see this referred to as fridge horror. The spooky part of the story that doesn’t catch up to you until after you’ve finished reading, get up, go to grab a snack, and stand at the fridge door and say ‘omigod’ to yourself when you get what’s implied rather than laid out. This idea might be a little much for the sake of this introductory essay, but I can get into it more down the road. I can’t lay out how to do that in a hundred words or whatever, but I can say it’s a goal in through cracks writing, and then I’ll try to unpack it more for you later.

The most important thing I can suggest you keep in mind for now is that ambiguity works best when you have something in mind for it. We’re not writing Lost here. Unless you want to have a big mess of a story that’s all red yarn on a cork board, you need to be mostly sure of what’s in your blank spaces even if you’re answer could be more than one thing. You need to know what the ending implies. Or at least one of the things the ending implies. What you don’t show the audience, you should at least know what shape it is, so to speak, so that you can plant clues and physical details to keep your mystery grounded in as much reality as it needs. But not too much. That’s how you lose your mystery and end up apologizing. If it seems like these suggestions are counter intuitive, that’s kind of part of the challenge. Good luck!

Careful How You Peek

Through cracks is inherently voyeuristic, and can therefore cause the reader to be implicated in the events in the story. This a powerful aspect of the technique and not something to be used lightly. Carefully, you can titillate, compel or lure a reader deeper into a story. Carelessly, you can make your reader uncomfortable and distract from the story you’re trying to tell. Consider where you aim your camera and where you linger in your description. In some ways, the things that you give detail says “this is what I think the reader is staring at.” Or at least “this is what I think the reader needs to pay attention to.” The last twitches of a finger connected to an-out-of-sight body? Linger there if it’s telling the reader something. Scanning the curves of a naked ass of your young hunky main character is probably cool? But what are saying about the reader? Depending on your description, you are saying “the reader of this story is going to be engaging in an invasion of privacy for the sake of amusement, and is using this man’s ass for their own excitement.” Not all descriptions of a naked person are lude. And even detailed descriptions of a naked ass might be appropriate, but because of the intimacy of through cracks, (now it’s a naughty pun) it is harder to pull back, as a reader, and distance themselves from what they’re reading. I mean, ideally. Any reader can skim past loving details of how a lady fills out her t shirt, but when our view is narrow as it should be in this technique, and the story is short and dense with important details, they may feel that skipping the passage makes them miss details they need to fill in blanks later. And it SHOULD! So you need to find the balance between important details being packed into every paragraph and forcing the reader to spy on some part of a character they might feel uncomfortable spying on. I default to sex in this because that’s easy to do as an American. (We have issues.) But this is just as important to keep in mind if we’re peering in on violence and abuse if for very different reasons. I’m not saying you can’t show a person putting a frying pan through someone else’s skull. I’m saying do it on purpose and really consider if that act of violence is the focus of your story. Is it just as powerful to hear a sound, a crack, not see the swing and the brain matter, and show like through a camera lens, that hand fall into few, fingers twitching their last. Is the important part the death or the violence? Is the important thing the characterization or the sexy shot of ass? Do you have time to describe ass and give us characterization? Do you have time to describe domestic violence and get to the horror of your story?

Note: I tend toward horror or scary. You don’t have to. Just tossing that out there.

Nothing That Doesn’t Matter

Anyway. That all brings me to the last point and I hope I can keep it short. Don’t spare a word. Don’t spare a breath. Don’t spare a sentence. No excess. No filler. No car parking scenes unless there’s doors slamming and hearts pounding. I’m not following my own advice here. So let me pare it down. If an event or an object or a person you describe isn’t packed with information the reader needs to build the mystery or unpack it, cut it. If you tell me there’s a bookshelf, that bookshelf better matter by informing character or informing the events to come and probably both. In real life, we have random shit in our lives that means nothing. Or does it? There’s no significance to the neat plastic bag of trash across the room from me right now. Or is there? If it’s important to the story, I could frame it as reflecting someone who has their shit about half-way put together. She’s the sort of writer who cleans but then doesn’t finish the job. Maybe it just needs to be there for me to trip over when trying to escape my bedroom at a dramatic moment AND it tells you I’m a shit-half-together type.  If you’re judging me right now, then that means it’s working and you’ve formed an opinion on me. If you’re not judging me but sympathizing, again, nice. Good job Mena!

I think sometimes as we’re fleshing out longer story writing format, we want to fill our white rooms with details and description. The scent of the wild flowers outside, the record player sending distant waves of Miles Davis through the thing floor. That’s all great. As long as it matters to the characters and events you’re going to tell. And yes, building tension is a thing that matters here. But in the end, don’t fill the space to make it more real. Describe what matters to who lives in the space and what is about to or has just happened to them. Leaving nothing in a room ‘just because.’ And this ties back to knowing what is and isn’t in your mysterious gaps, right? A spooky book an a desk because these stories should have a spooky book is a waste of your time. A spooky book because the story focuses on reading something you’re not supposed to, okay sure. Or because the character is an over the top goth kid, again, valid. This goes triple for any other tropes you might be used to in horror.

Why is there, on-screen a tall skinny monster with sharp nails and no face? Is it there because that matters or is it there because you feel like a scary story needs a monster reveal? Is there a bit where the character ‘descends into madnesss’ or whatever trite bullshit and does something super irrational because that’s what happens in scary stories? Yeah, no. Nope. Don’t do that. Don’t add ingredients from other types of scary stories because you think something is missing. Some things SHOULD be missing when you’re writing through cracks.. It’s just that you need to have an idea or three of what fits in the space. Which I guess is what it comes down to. A clear mental picture of what the reader sees and what the reader can’t see from where they sit and a keen mind for what’s necessary to be in view and what’s better to be left out of sight.

I didn’t say this would be easy. It’s going to be hard as fuck for me as well. That’s why it’s a challenge! Let’s fail together!

If you want to get a super FANCY version of this essay in PDF with visual elements that looks pretty cool, stop by this post on our Patreon. You can download it for free!

why i wrote reaching out

Just a side note here. I plan to be a little raw about explaining the challenges I face, day to day in life. Things Molly draws from in many ways. I am choosing not to mention any diagnosis I may or may not have because the challenges matter, not the labels. And I’ll thank you to not armchair diagnose me in your comments or your heart. Cool? Cool? That shit is between me, the Queen of Heaven, and my doctor. Cool? Cool.


First, what is Reaching Out?

Reaching Out follows the story of a woman named Molly. In her youth she was marked. Different. Many of us are. For Molly, her marking came from a weird predilection to see ghosts and a crippling empathy. In the novel, Molly is often utterly overwhelmed by the emotions of others, seeing them as physical things she must navigate around. The book presents this all as literal to her. Not hallucination or hyperbole. These difficulties are related, of course, but that’s for you to read more. At the start of the story, Molly is directionless but with a calling. Half-way raised by another marked person, a ‘strange’ uncle with a gift for folk magic and what he calls “the good work.” Most of that work relates to helping the dead and helping the living to deal with the dead. Molly is anchored by her uncle’s guidance, and becomes quite good at the good work from her youth. But as an adult, with only this calling, she wonders about the choices she makes. And examining how she interacts with the world, who is taking advantage of her, and at what point must she choose to take advantage of each other or remain a doormat.

But above all, Molly’s story is about breaking away from the harmful dichotomies of victim or predator as our only options in life. From the book:

I thought about selfishness and how it’s set to the opposite end of selflessness. As if the only two ways to be are giving or taking. That way of thinking, of limiting yourself to greed or grief ignored the simple gray of real life. Compassion existed, and in fact co-existed with self-preservation if you looked at all of it. Sinclair had once called that enlightened self-interest. 

Don’t get me wrong. The book isn’t all navel gazing. A lot of it’s crying for the dead, dealing with spirits far greater and more terrifying than your average Casper, and cute punk boys. But at it’s heart, Molly’s story is one of forgiveness.

It sounds selfish, typing it out here, bit please afford me a touch of that in an understanding that this is not take, but give. I need to forgive myself for the things that are wrong with me. Daily. Hourly sometimes. Minute by minute at the worst of times.

I wrote Reaching Out to forgive myself for the things that make me broken and wrong. The things that mark me.

Because those things also make me ‘magical’ within the context of what magical means in our reality.

I feel too much.

If you’ve interacted with me much, or know me in real life, this is a kind of a ‘shrug’ of a statement isn’t it? I feel too much. I’m too sensitive. I do not have a thick skin. All the reasons I should not be, say, a woman on the internet. Or a writer. Isn’t that what they tell writers? You must have a thick skin.
I resist this idea. And I resent it. And it made me feel weak and broken my whole life.

I experience crippling empathy. Maybe not in the folkloric way that Molly does, but that’s all smokey lines anyway. Day to day, I walk away from the internet, the news, a movie, a book, because the intensity of the experiences of others can sweep me away. Sometimes that’s good. When I see friends happy, I literally experience joy. Whole open face joy. Sometimes it’s devastating. I cannot tell you the number of times a week I tell my wife, “Okay, no more politics today.” Because if I read one more story, hear one more outrage, I’ll fall into a ball and die. Or wish I could.

I manage. I’m an adult. I can turn things off to cope when I must. But it eats at me, and gets at me eventually. Most often when I’m trying to sleep. I’ve stopped throwing up over sad movies. But once, I did. It’s not as direct one to one as I’d like either. I go to see a live performance. Almost any. Doesn’t matter. The high raised energy of artist making music, for example, overwhelms me and I cry openly. Not sadly. I’m overwhelmed. (I have family who experience this as well, but I’m not going to out them. I know how the internet can be when you admit what it sees as a vulnerability.)

Sometimes I feel like I’m patchwork of coping mechanism sewn together.

The noise I experience is often overwhelming in large gatherings of people. You know Christmas shopping at an American mall? Can you picture it? Now imagine it, but every word around you, ever thought and feeling, is all aimed at you personally. That’s me. Maybe I’m just reading expressions and body language around me, making all the assumed feelings they’re expressing and putting it all on myself. There’s a lot of very mundane, practical explanations for why I get overwhelmed in large crowds by the ‘feelings’ around me. The mental noise. There are clinical terms. I’m not using those here because that’s my choice not to. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The experience is the same. The feelings of a thousand strangers coming into my brain meat and confusing everything I’m trying to think and feel myself.

These days, this largely translates to me getting confused on train platforms. Don’t get me wrong, I get to work, I get home, it’s always okay. I’m an adult, I learned to cope. But sometimes after a long day of work, I can stand on familiar platform in a station I’ve been through a hundred times and it became an entirely different place. Words and kanji I know are alien, unfamiliar shape. This causes panic, of course, but mostly it comes with soul draining feeling of failure. I know I know where I am. But I cannot process I know where I am, so what sort of fucking failure am i?

You’ll see this happen in Reaching Out. Molly takes the bus. A lot. She’s can’t drive with her condition. And yet, all the emotional noise around her leads to confusion and the familiar becoming hideously unfamiliar.
The thing is. Molly copes with this. I cope with my version of it. And I need to forgive myself, even in the moment when how I am gets in my way.

I wrote this book to forgive myself for getting in my own way.

And I feel like there are plenty of people out there who live marked like Molly. Who don’t always or can’t always forgive themselves for being themselves. I wrote this book for them too. So if you’re someone, maybe, who isn’t always as kind with yourself as you could be, maybe I wrote this for us. If you know someone who isn’t always as graceful toward themselves, I wrote it for them too.

I matter. It’s okay I get in my own way. I’m still good.

Molly matters. She is who she is and that’s beautiful.

You matter. You are you and that’s not just good enough. That’s great.


If I have the time, soon, I’ll tell you another thing I have in common with Molly. I believe in ghosts, and I want to talk to you about hauntology. See you then.

You can get Reaching Out, a San Jenaro novel:

On Itch

Payhip

And Amazon in both print and ebook

Willie and Patsy and writing today

Content warning for casual use of ablest slurs and a discussion of that.

One of the songs my mother used to sing, maybe one of my favorite of her songs is Patsy Cline’s version of the Willie Nelson song Crazy. I don’t have a recording of my mom doing it, I don’t think, so you’ll have to deal with the almost as good version, Ms. Cline’s.

Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new
Worry, why do I let myself worry?
Wondering what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QEDb3xzdec

Growing up, listening to that and the countless other songs with crazy in the lyrics, I had a slant to my understand of the word. I knew it was bad to call people crazy in a hurtful way, but my mom was crazy. She’d say as much. I was crazy. Growing up, crazy was another way to say intense and passionate and weird and wonderful and out of control. Crazy wasn’t always good, but in my family, crazy was inevitable and even welcome. You don’t love someone, you’re crazy about them. You don’t have an idea, you have a crazy plan. That outfit is crazy! He had a kind of crazy look in his eyes (negative, or suggesting inspiration.) Crazy was regrettable in polite society but required to be an artist.

Suffice to say, this meaning in my head does not necessarily jive with the word and it’s meaning else wise. For plenty of people crazyis a much more complicated word. Maybe it sometimes means some of those things, but also and mostly it’s a word of shame. A word used by abusers and neglectful caretakers. For many, it’s a word to hide away from for fear it will stick to a person like leaprosy and isolate them. The word crazy, as a label, can mean job loss and homelessness because in our year 2017, it’s still kind of okay to discriminate against the neuroatypical for some reason.

For me, crazy is a label I can bare safely, and using it is often a stress release. Crazy-cool is in my internal lexicon and while I’ll be careful about its usage it’s still there and I can’t just vacuum it out of my brain. I am crazy, by my definition and probably by the prerogative definition too. But but but! I can also appreciate that the common experience is not my own. For many people there is a word shape wound on them that gets picked open every time someone used the word causally. Especially if they are unprepared.

“Okay” you’re thinking “but what does this all have to do with writing or giant robots?” I’m glad you asked.


Cover of Dead Machines by Filamena Young
(You should buy this and read it. Giant robots, motherhood, ghosts.

In early drafts of Dead Machines (my novel which you should buy when you can) my main character and others used the word crazy much like I do. To mean something wild and dangerous or awesome and unpredictable. Some people used it to describe events or people who were bad, but not necessarily neuroatypical. The word flew around a lot. Too much. And just because I meant it how I meant it, I kept thinking of my readers who might feel a scab open every time it was tossed around so lightly.

I didn’t want that.

I wanted people to feel uncomfortable in the places I wanted them to feel uncomfortable not randomly. I decided to take a hard look at my draft.

I started with control+f and went from there. I hunted down every use of the word crazyand examined it for intent and meaning and usage. With each usage I examined the characters and the situation. Did they mean crazy? Did they mean awesome or terrible or broken or scary or intense instead? Was there a more evocative and specific word I could use in place?

You know what though? There almost always was. There was almost always a word that fit better or felt stronger or was more interesting. Is it possible I replaced one microagression with another? Yeah possibly but I did my best and got a second set of eyes on it. (Actually my whole thinking on the topic came out of my partners post on microagressions in fiction.)

I didn’t eliminate every instance. It’s kind of a spoiler, but not a big one. So let me just spoiler around the specific example of you’d rather avoid it.

WATCH OUT SPOILERS

In one specific moment In the book, a pilot does something incredibly risky, jumping out of her mech to de-escalate a fight in overly dramatic fashion. The main character, Io screams her over the communication lines.

“Are you insane?!” I yelled into the comms, watching the tiny figure float, as if naked, away from her mobile suit.

She was totally hopeless. Maybe twenty ticks of air? Maybe less? The cold would get to her first. It was not good survival.

“You have to be insane when the entire universe is.” She told me, her signal weak without the suit’s array to amplify it.

OKAY SPOILERS OVER

This moment, I felt, was important enough to the characters and their eventual relationship that the less-than-woke heat of the moment exclamation and biting response felt right and real. My readers will have to decide for themselves if it feels appropriate on the moment.


I also balance this by making sure it’s in my content warning. It’s a small thing, maybe, but it felt right? This is already long, I know, so I won’t stage a defense of content warnings here. But basically I know plenty of readers who can handle a lot more with a heads up. Despite this being a bit of a spoiler, I feel like the book won’t unravel with a tiny heads up. (That would be a pretty shitty book tbh.)

So that’s where that is. I went through a draft and eliminated uses of a micro aggression when I didn’t intend it as such, and I put it on a content warning. Even though it’s not a word that hurts me. Because I know it can hurt others.

I’m also going to have Patsy Cline stuck in my head all day. So that’s a thing.

A Writer’s Ritual

Every real writer you know knows at least one of a set on 29 perfect rituals. These rituals vary in usefulness depending on their age, usage, and intent of the writer. You will often see debates and arguments as to the definition of ‘real writer’. That is, what makes one legitimate as a craftsman or artist with words and stories. It is these rituals that define all writers. Period. Someone who uses none of the set is likely something else. Maybe a content creator. There’s nothing wrong with being a content creator, but that has its own, less ancient rituals. Performing a ritual as a plagiarist, or intending to plagiarize has its own consequences. These are best not discussed. While there are gray areas, be careful.

Most writers don’t realize they are performing a ritual as if it is something they just do. Every writer who has earned some or all of their income for over five years or more knows they perform these rituals. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

Writers lie to tell the truth. Best to get used to that. As you are about to become a liar. Or at least become a better one.

If you are reading this, it means you want to be a writer. Or you are a writer and want to become a better writer. You have either lucked upon this ritual or else worked very hard to find it. Congratulations. It is recommended that you read through this document completely before attempting this ritual. Of the 29 perfect rituals for writers, this is neither the easiest nor the most harrowing ritual. It is common, among writers, but not the most common.

In short, you must sacrifice something of yourself to draw the attention of a Muse. Contact with a Muse always results in a burst of inspiration and artistic focus. The inspiration granted may not conform to your brand, the course of your career or your ability to isolate what you create from who you are. That is not the purview of this ritual. Neither is it the concern of any Muse. Muses do not care about you.

You must be willing to sacrifice time without really knowing how much time you will lose to the Muse. Because they are fickle and this sort of time cannot be measured.

To some extent, all of this is true of any writer writing. Writing, from planning, editing and the deed itself, takes time. If you ever check out your competitor’s release schedule and see them releasing a book a month, you should now know. Either they’re performing a series of dangerous rituals, or they’re somehow a group of people instead of one author. No book gets written overnight, and every article you can put together could benefit from one more editing pass.
And yet for the sake of this ritual, nothing so mundane is meant. Besides whatever time writing and revising requires of you as a writer, this ritual takes that and more. It takes time off of the end of your life. There’s no ratio, and no one knows when they’ll die so it isn’t as if it can be calculated, observed, or even guessed at. Why not sacrifice something so ineffable? Is it a sacrifice to lose something you can’t measure? Yes. It is. If the ritual is completed, when you interact with the Muse, you will feel the drain. You will feel the intense pull of time slipping away. It will be palpable and terrible. But plenty of people talk themselves out of carrying the trauma of it for long. You’ll probably be one of those people. Write on that first sheet of paper a number. Write it small like it was a page number or a layout note. Or type it in the same place if you’re using a computer. Make sure it can’t be moved or changed. That is the time you are willing to give up. The more time, the stronger your inspiration is. The catch being you don’t know what unit the time will be measured in. Seconds? Days? Years? The Muses are coy and cold. But you signed up for this. You might ask, ‘what happens if I offer more time than I have left.’ You’re clever, I bet you can guess. It’s like that, but messier.

You must be able to sacrifice part of a relationship. As a part of an offering to a Muse, you must put a strain on your marriage for example. Or make your children hate you a little more. Or disappoint a friend for the last time.
Again, it is true that in mundane socializations, being a writer and writing can put a heavy strain on your relationships already. Of course. But this is something more. You are severing real spiritual bonds between yourself and whomever you decide to sacrifice. Perhaps ‘choose’ is not the correct word. It’s true you can try to manipulate the situation so that the emotional damage done goes in a certain a direction. However, there’s no clear way to demand the ritual only effects the person you target. You may decide to cut out on your best friend’s wedding to perform this ritual. Or you might refuse to help your son with his homework in order to influence the results.

Your aim can’t always hit the mark, though, If your best friend was too drunk to notice you were gone, but her new groom fumed about it, you may not have gotten your intended results.

If you make no effort to manipulate which relationship is strained, it will be random and perhaps, more devastation. It is thus highly recommended that you perform this ritual on a friend’s birthday or other times you might be building a relationship. The effects of this sacrifice may not be noticeable to you right away or even at all if you are obtuse toward social connections. You may think you’ve gotten away with something. Maybe you did. Maybe the strain goes to a loving husband whose ability to empathize with your drive help heal the riff. On the other hand, maybe your current agent stops talking to you during an important pitch period and quits as your agent. The thing is, contacting a Muse is worth it. Every time. Why else would people keep doing it?

You must be willing to sacrifice some of your ability to enjoy the mundane world. Again, this is an aspect of any writer. We bore often and have no patience for the banal. This is different. You can, again, try to assuage the Muse so it will take only a specific tolerance from you. Try a symbolic gesture by performing this ritual in the bed you and your partner use to make love. It’s possible the Muse will reduce your ability to enjoy vanilla sex with that partner. But what you write? It will be the hottest thing you’ve managed. Sex too important to you? Perform the ritual in your kitchen surrounded by cooking tools. Food will never taste the same but, again, it’s worth it. What the Muse takes in sacrifice is hard to put a finger on exactly. It isn’t until after the fact you’re likely to realize the color red has no vibrancy. Or you cannot stand the way your daughter chews her food and yell at her. You can’t drink tea anymore as it doesn’t have enough kick. Or maybe asking you to do your share of the chores drives you to a rage even though you know you need to do your part.
Some writers report finding ways to work around these new intolerances, but writers lie. So who can be sure?

You have manipulated the events surrounding your ritual. You have most of your components. You’ve meditated on what you will give up, but still, you feel uninspired? Some writers experience a jolt to write before starting the ritual itself and stop to avoid the consequences. Plenty of writers manage to write without ever summing a Muse. Some poor souls are visited by Muses without this ritual. But if none of those things are true for you, then you have no real choice but to begin. It’ll be worth it. Promise.

To alert the Muses you are prepared to sacrifice to them, you must now make your fingers ache. That is, to make the call, you must make your fingers itch, tingle, hurt or ache to begin. If you don’t use fingers to write, aching in your throat or headaches will work in a pinch. (Writers who frequently experience debilitating migraines may be accidentally summoning a Muse. Each and every time.)

How you make your fingers—or head or what-have-you—hurt is up to you. Some writers prick their fingertips or whack their knuckles on the table. Some skip a dose of their pain medication and hope for the best. It is surprisingly common for writers to chew their nails and cuticles until they hurt and bleed a little. Though it is not recommended, substances you are allergic too that make your skin itchy will do the job, but you have to be careful. This, like any other method to make your fingers hurt, should be done with care. Permanent damage to your hands or other tools for the craft will slow you down. A sprained finger at the start of the ritual, for example, can have dire consequences as described later.

That’s it, really. If you’re in some kind of terrible hurry, you know everything you need to know to perform the actual ritual and summon a Muse.
However, there is more to know if you’re the cautious and careful type.
Shortly after you have caused yourself to ache, a Muse will come. This guide will make no effort to outline the actual visitation. It is known the visitation is different for everyone and may seem different from ritual to ritual. It is understood that your mind cannot comprehend the appearance or experience of being visited. Modern writers describe a giant, fleshy amalgam of typewriter parts and screaming faces. Some describe a mood, an emotional oppression that is heavy and smells like a train station. One writer describes a male-like shape with three handsome faces and various unnamed pleasure giving organs. All throbbing to excite and enter him. He does not state if the visitation is conjugal. Ancient writers describe, in secret letters to their peers, horrific and exciting monsters. Talking walls that bleed children’s stories. Or great hands made of shadows and worms crawling across the ceiling, scribing the writer’s secrets across the walls in blood-ink.
We have many theories as to the variety and bizarre descriptions of Muses. There are some who believe it is not a series of separate entities even no matter what the Greeks believed, but rather one Outside entity we see and cannot process. The most likely is that we lack the language to properly describe the experience. Many writers forget the visitation. You may perform the ritual and not notice anything again until you realize you’ve been working for thirty minutes without checking your Facebook once. If so, you can count yourself fortunate. Seeing a Muse, or otherwise remembering your experiences of it during a visitation is a harrowing event. Try as you might, you will not be able to apply your words and measly descriptions to what happened. You cannot describe what the Muse is and what it had to do to you to get you writing. It’s enough to drive some writers to a breakdown. But it’s worth it. It must be worth it for the number of writers who cry, constantly, for a Muse to visit them.

After the visitation, you will write. The writing will be as rough as your first drafts usually are but there will be key differences. One, the ideas will be deeper, better—not necessarily more marketable, but more artistic. No good craft or business but better art. After all, isn’t that what most writers want? Beyond that, though, the writing will be faster. If you’re the sort of writer who usually labors over word choice or struggles with comma placement–and other pointless grammatical distractions–those worries will be gone. Nothing will get in your way as the ideas flow. If you’re a writer who already clocks a word count that leaves your keyboard smoking, you’re going to have a bad time in the morning. It will be worth it. But it will hurt. As mentioned earlier, if you hurt yourself at the start of this ritual, you will have a terrible time. You should plan to visit an ER when you regain consciousness later.

How long the ritual lasts will vary from writer to writer. Based on your personal stamina, wakefulness, caffeination and health factors like narcolepsy. In general, if you could manage eight hour work day without the Muse, you may expect to triple that before you pass out from exhaustion. 24 of the most productive hours of your life. You won’t sleep, eat, need the bathroom or thirst until after it is over. You may pause to meditate on what you’ll write next or check notes, but you’ll feel no need to rest, research or struggle over grammar. You’ll simply write and think and write more and more. After you pass out, you will pay for the physical drain with dehydration, hunger or intestinal difficulties, but it will all be worth it.

If you are interrupted in this period of inspiration by someone demanding your attention you will experience consequences similar to running out of writing material as described below. So best to avoid that. The magnitude will depend on how long you were interrupted.

Of course.

The Muse has inspired you and filled you—no—overfilled you with creative energy. Which is what you wanted. As suggested above, there are consequences to this supersaturation of ideas. If you run out of writing materials because your computer crashes or your notebook runs out of paper, the experience does not stop. Rather, the unspent words will bubble up in your mind and your mouth causing you actual physical pain. Your nose may bleed. You may vomit. You will most certainly begin to menstruate if you have the physical capacity for it. According to some accounts, you may menstruate even if you don’t, depending on what you write and who you write as.

That said, it’s easier to write on a wall in blood than it is with a pencil, so at least you’ve got that going for you now. If you can’t find or cobble together new writing materials or have been restrained the inspiration will not end. For example, if restrained by a hospital security guard or cop, your frustrated agony will not end until your period of inspiration is over.

Worse, you will walk knowing the greatest words you will ever write will be lost forever. You can attempt the ritual again, of course, but those words you were meant to write on that day? You will never have them back. (It is worth noting that once you commit the words to paper, pixel or clay tablet, they’re your words. If you lose a file on a poorly backed up computer, you’ll probably be able to remember most of what you wrote. Your rewrite might even be better. But the flow won’t be the same. It will take a lot longer to recover but at least it isn’t any more lost than a more mundane misplaced draft.)

It would not be hyperbole to say that some writers never fully recover from the permanent loss of what should have been. A depressed state, a loss of confidence, a new phobic relationship to writing and worse have been reported. Of course, writers trend toward these things anyway, so maybe it’s coincidence. But probably not.

And that’s it. More or less. You can stop reading now if you want and get started on summoning a Muse.

Let’s assume that you’ve stuck around, because there’s more written, and you’re wise and curious.

Good choice, Remembers, writers lie to tell the truth.

The thing you may already suspect but are afraid to admit is that this is not a one-time deal. You’ve glimpsed raw creative potential. It is not something you are likely to walk away from. While the old yarn is that Everyone’s Got One Book In Em, you contain multitudes. Why else go through a ritual like this? If your goal is to produce one great work and find a new hobby, this ritual is not for you. Even if you don’t remember the details of your visitation in your conscious thoughts, it is still there taking up a lot of space in your unconscious. When you dream, you will dream of the thing you saw. Glimpses or flashes of the experience will come to you when it’s dark and you are alone.—You’re a writer, you will be alone in the dark, make no mistake. You will think about your Muse, and in your desperate moments, be certain you cannot write without it. You will try a million lesser rituals to evoke another visitation without the sacrifices. They may even work, but make no mistake, they will not satisfy in the same way as that moment of incredible creative power. You will crave a new visitation the way most people crave love, food, and acceptance.

Strictly speaking, there’s nothing stopping you from giving in. The ritual is simple. Free up some time, get some paper ready, why not? You’re a better writer now than you were the last time you summoned the Muse. Who knows what you’ll be able to create this time! There’s no reduction on return either. The Muse is fickle in what it takes from you to some extent, but not in what it gives. Some say the experience is even better the second or third time. Some lonely souls—fantastic writers all—say it never stops getting better. For most of these sorts, their writing won’t be appreciated until after they are dead—tragically young—since no one in their lives will talk to them anymore. But it’s worth it. Of course, it is.

I’m a writer, I’ve done it. Would I lie?