Familiars or Muses?

Every writer needs a muse. And this is my muse. Or is my cat a familiar?

Today, I’m talking about the difference between a familiar and a muse, but mostly, it’s an excuse to finish up a little project that’s been underway in the Word Crone Cottage: The installation of a cat door that will prevent my having to get up every half-hour or so to open the door for Scout.

Author, Joanna Bourne says, “a familiar is a muse with teeth.” 

Oxford Languages describes a familiar as “a demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal; a close friend or associate.”

Okay, I can embrace the notion of Scout being my close friend and associate, but attending and obeying? I think, by that definition, that makes me HER familiar. Either way, she does keep me company… on occasion.

By equal turn, Oxford tells me a muse is “one of the nine daughters of Zeus… who preside over the arts and sciences; a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.”

Yes, I think, in this case, a muse is the better description. She is definitely a force, a source of inspiration.

So she splits her day between her true confidant, my adult son and in-house animal whisperer, sleeping on her 6ft. cat tower that sits in front of the window with the nicest view, (obstructing the aforementioned mountain view from us lesser beings) and lastly, occasionally blessing me with her company across the yard in my office. So would I call her my writing muse? Hmm. That would depend.

Can I claim a muse as a tax deduction?

Word Crone Cottage

Cream, Two Sugars, and a Couple of Friends

If you know a writer, there’s probably a cup of coffee nearby. I take mine with cream, two sugars, and a couple of friends.

My day always goes – breakfast, at the keyboard in the Word Crone Cottage by 9 a.m., writing. Lunch. Then after meeting my word count, I switch gears to work on the Cottage (or house, or yard, or illustrations.) This week, I’m continuing to work my way around the Word Crone Cottage and it found me styling the area around one of the two armchairs. I like to think of my “style” as… intentional. Eclectic, for sure, but with a purpose. For this little corner of the cottage, the purpose is for hosting a friend or two, serving up a cuppa coffee, and enjoying writerly conversation.

The recipe:

Two friends and a bottomless carafe of coffee…

The upper half of the wall was painted in butter yellow with a dark gold fleur-de-lis stencil. The bottom half is striated navy blue. The trim is sage green. (Those aren’t the real names of those colors. I’ve no idea what the actual names or brands are. I tend to throw different pots of paint together until I’m happy with the result.)

The lamp used to have a glass “Tiffany”-style shade (irreparably broken of course.) I replaced it with a thrift-find. The fringe – isn’t a silk tassel at all – it’s made up of tiny metal springs! I can’t bring myself to replace the fabric covering. The chairs were also a thrift-find. They came from a yard sale at $50 each (including the shearling head coverings that are covering water stains on the backs of both chairs. The story I was told was that they found their way to Charlottesville, VA, USA by way of New Zealand. If walls… and furniture… could talk.

I hope you’ll join me on this tour of the Word Crone Cottage as I finish, paint, and style the other corners of my office. I’ll be back every Friday. So pour yourself a cuppa coffee and join me through the use of the “follow” button. There it is. Just below… 😀


Goals and Habits

One of my favorite things to do is to begin a new journal. Journals are great for:

Starting a new book
Starting a new year
Scheduling the bits that go along with writing – completion of books, social media posts, deadlines, etc.

I love books – all kinds. I make books for a living, but not just the fictive kind. I enjoy making books for journaling too. But I never let the absence of a new journal stop me from starting a new journal. I just grab up a handful of printer paper, (or I print out my template of dotted paper), soak it in a cup of extra strong instant coffee, dry it, iron it, then zip up the signatures on my handy sewing machine. It’s kind of magical.
Blank journal signature, all ready to go.​ 
There’s also something magical about the smell of books. Add to that, coffee soaked pages, and you’ve got quite the powerful tool.

So go ahead. Join me in making books. Stitch up some pages. Read some books while you’re at it. Make some art. Make magic.


The Reclusive Writing Crone

(Warning: trigger image – mouse skelaton.)

Blog regularly. Post to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Patreon. Don’t forget to Tweet, Like, Shout… And at some point in all that, write… novels… with a distinctive brand… and regularity.
Large quantities of coffee can help with some of those things, (especially the regularity) but something’s gotta give. So I decided my best bet was to hone a brand that would allow me the leisure to do the single most important thing – to write – and to remove myself from all the rest. I would re-brand as the Reclusive Writing Crone… and write, southern gothic mysteries.
Recluses don’t have to worry about those things that would otherwise distract from the business of writing. The Crone part just comes naturally to me, because I am just naturally drawn to things that most normal people find creepy.
Case in point:


So toward building my brand as the reclusive writer, I’ve spent my time removing myself from society. Easy Peasy. There’s a flippin’ pandemic on-going. It’s called social distancing.
And something that lends itself to all these things has been my pandemic project of creating my outdoor office, away from the house, away from people, away from… distraction (although, in all honesty, renovating a shed as a writing office is a pretty big distraction from the business of writing.) 


​I just finished insulating and paneling the walls. (Yep. Did it myself, although I had a professional install the electrics which, given my history and sketchy skill set, seemed like a good idea.)
The next phase is paint. I know, I know, the wood paneling is pretty, but doesn’t match and that sort of thing bothers me. And I want light and bright and airy. (Hey, I can be a reclusive writing crone and still embrace pretty things.)
Next up, finishing the trim/paneling in the loft, insulating the ceiling, and some sort of ceiling treatment. 
So if you’re interested, you can follow the on-going renovations of the writing shed.  I’m a recluse! A writin’ reclusive crone!… with a writing shed.


The Protagonist and the Voodoo Doll

Most writers are familiar with the saying, “In the first act, get your hero up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him, and in the third act, get him down safely.” I just learned that quote is by George Abbott, director/playwright. I’ve heard iterations of that quote for years from multiple sources, but never knew who first coined it until I tapped into the power of the Google. (That’s a capital “G”, as in deity, not “G” as in the trademarked company logo. That might be… some kind of infringement. I live in fear of infringement.)

Scout, my writing muse.

I started a new book three weeks ago and that’s what got me thinking about an expansion of Abbott’s quote. Sure, ya gotta put him up that tree, and sure, you gotta throw some projectiles, and in popular fiction, hopefully, you get him safely down out of the tree, but it’s a little more involved than that.

The Protagonist Voodoo Doll. (Poor thing.)

I started a new book three weeks ago and that’s what got me thinking about an expansion of Abbott’s quote. Sure, ya gotta put him up that tree, and sure, you gotta throw some projectiles, and in popular fiction, hopefully, you get him safely down out of the tree, but it’s a little more involved than that.

Writer, Carolyn Greene, is warm and squishy in addition to having a profound understanding of story structure. Part of her m.o. is to ask you a simple question and let you squirm until you answer it or figure out that you don’t have an answer and you need one. While whining to her about the limpid middle of whatever book I was writing at the time, Carolyn asked, “what’s your protagonist’s internal conflict?” Sure enough, I had not identified that before writing. If stories are character-driven, then knowing their internal conflict will have a profound effect on the trajectory of the story. Boom! Identify I.C. First!

But let’s take it one step further. Writer Abbie Emmons summed it up nicely in her discussion of the protagonist’s misbelief. By determining the character’s “misbelief”, it takes the internal conflict one step further to establish how the character will grow. Booya!

I work better in pictures and it’s more likely more people have seen the same movie than read the same book, so let’s do a “fer example.”

“Fer example”, let’s take the movie, BIG, with Tom Hanks. Love this movie. It’s so cleanly written. Tom Hanks’s character, Josh Baskin, thinks all of his problems could be solved if only he were big. That’s his misbelief. Over the course of the story, he grows in understanding that being BIG doesn’t matter if it’s not accompanied by maturity and that can only be achieved through life experience. The whole movie is spent showing the conflicts that arise as a result of being a child in an adult body. (Plus, I love that the inciting incident/mentor is an awesome vintage fortune-teller called Zoltar. I love creepy movie props.)

A little board art.

And that’s it in a nutshell. You figure out your character’s internal conflict by way of their misbelief and that will inform the better part of your character-driven plot.

Now, off with you. Put on a favorite movie and look for the internal conflict and the protagonist’s growth as a result of their misbelief. You won’t be disappointed… and you’ll never watch a movie in the same way.

Make some art. Write some words!
And if you are so inclined and would like to be informed of the release of my next book, feel free to contact me for inclusion in the notifications and other special stuff.