What if our muses are aliens from other worlds?

“The Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon.” – Wikipedia

museMany of us learned the classical definition of muses in school. We had to memorize their names along with those of all the other Greek and Roman gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and ill-defined entities.

When we studied long-dead writers whose books were part of the acceptable canon, we quickly saw that many of their muses weren’t from the pantheon, but were imagined as wispy, ephemeral (real or imagined) women who–when captured by artists–looked like they were dying of consumption or, possibly, syphilis.  I told my professors I didn’t want anyone or anything like that hanging around giving me writing advice. This met with disapproval.

Later, when my muse showed up on a dark and stormy night, she turned out to be a whisky-drinking, spell-casting woman who looked (I’m not making this up) like a hell’s angel biker. She had a “write this or else” kind of attitude. It took us a while to come to an understanding.

But now I’m starting to wonder if all those Greek goddesses, consumptive women, and more modern whisky-drinking muses are illusions or, worse yet, aliens taking their instructions from a fully cloaked mothership in orbit around the earth. I often thought cats got their instructions from a similar source, but that’s another post.

So, here we are, slaving away writing fiction, all the time thinking we’re making it up, using our imaginations, joking about what our muses want and don’t want, &c., when it turns out, we’re drones taking dictation from a race of beings from (possibly) the Klingon Empire who want to hack into our brains and influence our destiny via what we perceive to be home-grown works of art, music, drama, and literature. Sort of like the matrix, but worse.

Is there a way to prove this? Of course not. All attempts at proof will–due to the prime directives of our otherworldly muses–sound like fantasy, science fiction, fairy tales, and insanity. I also notice that whenever I try to sabotage my muse as a way of protesting the mothership scenario, I get writer’s block. The only way I’m getting this post written at all was by drinking my muse under the table. (I’m trying to hurry before she wakes up.)

I’ve tried a variety of witches’ and conjure women’s spells, but they seem (so far) capable of getting rid of haints, demons, and the hexes from bad people. Muses are another kettle of spirits. So far–after a lot of dutiful testing–I’ve learned that they’re susceptible to booze. Here’s what that means. You’ve got to practice learning how to hold more liquor than your muse can hold. When she’s drunk and you’re not yet drunk, you can write, paint and compose without interference. For me, that means keeping a bottle of single malt Scotch and/or a quart jar of moonshine on the desk at all times.

If you want to be your own writer rather than the pawn in somebody’s cosmic game of chess, you might want to consider the benefits of this approach. Sure, you might go broke or die of liver failure, but that’s a small price to pay for the sanctity of your art.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Eulalie and Washerwoman” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” novels he wrote while trying to get rid of haints.

The author as a crystal gazer

Let’s go out on a limb here with this idea. . .

The term “scrying’ is often called crystal gazing whether the medium/psychic stares into a crystal ball, a mirror, or the clear surface of a bowl of water to help them “see” the future. I thought of the term while writing about Tarot cards because many card readers use a form of scrying to better understand each card in the Tarot deck.

Wikipedia photo

Wikipedia photo

However, instead of staring at a crystal ball, they stare at the image on the card and, so to speak, imagine stepping inside the card to better see the image. If one does this often, one “sees” more than the symbols and drawings on the card and begins to imagine other things, visions or day dreams, perhaps, that begin as an active process of relaxed imagination and end up supplying information not previously known.

Of course, you can do that with a photograph of a person, a house, an outdoor scene, or anything else and imagine what is going on there.

Many writers do something similar when they write without necessarily thinking there’s anything like psychic ability or mediumship or fortune telling associated with it. What happens is this: when concentrating on a scene in the novel or short story in progress, the writer stops typing to use logic for puzzling out what needs to happen next in the story. They casually think about it. The imagination can be unleashed in much the same way a Tarot card reader’s imagination is given free reign while s/he looks at the image on a card.

When a writer does it, they’re not telling fortunes. They’re better seeing the story, daydreaming it–in a sense–to learn what’s going to happen next.

  • If you haven’t tried this, you can stare at your writing on the screen, say, an action scene or the description of a room or a character, with a “hmmm” kind of attitude. Basically, you let your eyes blur so that you’re not reading the words on the page over and over. Instead, you’re “looking at” or “stepping into” whatever it is those words are saying. If the words describe a room in a house, you’re pretending to be inside that room. If they’re describing a chase scene, you’re pretending to see the scene unfold before your eyes as though you’re watching a TV show.
  • If you have a photograph or drawing of a real or imagined place setting where your story is set, you can do the same thing. Look at it and imagine being there and watching the action. Some writers have found this works when they’re doing research and find themselves staring at the words on the page of a book about the subject their novel is about. Suddenly, new ideas for the story begin too come to mind–rather like free association.

Anyone who writes fiction over a period of time will find ways to jump start his or her imagination. Some of us idly think of our stories while driving or doing repetitive tasks. Others think about their stories while listening to music. And then, there’s being a crystal gazer (so to speak). All these things tend to put the author into the scene one way or the other so that the subconscious mind gets involved and shows you what you’re intending to do.

It beats fighting with words on the page while logically trying to brute force the story into place.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal books and stories, including Eulalie and Washerwoman.

A writer’s perspective – seeing the world anew

mayplazaAfter a family visit to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, the adults rested on a stone wall while my two granddaughters burnt off energy racing around the adjoining Wilbur D May Sculpture Plaza.

They were fascinated by the 19-foot-wide, 12-petal lotus flower created by sculptor Kate Raudenbush.

Called the Guardian of Eden, the metal sculpture inspired Buddhist symbolism, Hindu and Egyptian creation myths, ancient Flower of Life symbol. Even though I was tired, I couldn’t resist seeing what my granddaughters saw while standing in the shade beneath the Guardian.

Stand in an unusual place and see the world anew.

Stand in an unusual place and see the world anew.

The world looks very different from within the sculpture. My five-year-old granddaughter, Freya, liked standing close to the leaves and looking at the museum building and the others at that intersection through the holes. I can’t say what she saw, but I saw a world defined–created, perhaps–by the sculpture. The shade beneath the Guardian was part of it and so were the bits and pieces of West Liberty Street obscured by the petals.

That which was visible by my changed perspective beneath the sculpture was more important than that which was covered up. In many ways, the sensation is like staring at the spaces between the leaves of a tree rather than focusing on the leaves.

Children naturally explore their world and the, play with it–so to speak–by looking at it from slides and swings, by handing upside down on a jungle gym, peering at it through a stand of weeds, the hair of a doll or the holes in a colander.

As writers, we do this, too. When we do, what do we see? What do we imagine? And what new stories can we tell? It’s fun to speculate about such things and then go out and create one’s own adventures.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, including the recently released “The Betrayed,” a story of lies, deceit and corruption on what appeared to be an Edenic college campus. Click on the banner to grab your Kindle copy today.


Turning (selected and well-disguised) Secrets into Fiction

While growing up in Florida, my secret story often sounded like old Florida adventure novels.

“A secret story should be yours alone: about who you are, who you want to be. Who you believe yourself to be, under all the social conventions and expectations. Are you secretly a sorceress? A priestess? A charmer of animals or teller of fortunes? Are the trees your friends? There is something wonderful about having a secret identity, something that no one knows about you.” – Theodora Goss in her post “Your Secret Story”

Along with “Where do you get your ideas?” the question people ask me the most is, “How much of each story is true?”

Some of the actual events merged into a short story or novel come from an author’s experiences. For example, my Kindle short story “Moonlight and Ghosts” draws slightly on my experience as a unit manager years ago in a center for the developmentally disabled. Other events in an author’s work come from what author Theodora Goss describes as one’s secret story.

A secret story, often begun in childhood, is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves, a lifelong imagination-run-wild romp of the things we fantasize about doing or being. In childhood, many of us imagine being wizards or Knights of the Round Table or Superman.

As we grow older, perhaps we change our story to make it more plausible. These stories can be, but usually aren’t, the same as our dreams and goals. Perhaps they come to mind as an all-in-good fun episode we imagine while we’re falling asleep or mowing the yard. Perhaps they have a deeper impact and become our personal myth.

What ever they are, we seldom tell them to each other. Yet, to a writer, they are so much a part of his/her imagination, selected fragments of them wind up in stories or, in some cases, serve as the catalysts for stories.

I wonder if we become truly happy and/or in a state of bliss when our secret story and our daily life become one. Before that happens, these stories are a great source of ideas for the next novel or short story.

You May Also Like:

  • I have brought back my “Book Bits” writing links posts twice a week on my Sun Singer’s Travels blog. Each post includes 8-10 links for recent book news, reviews, how-to articles and features.
  • The Real Magic of the Unlimited Self tells the story behind the story for my “Moonlight and Ghosts” Kindle short story. (Sometimes the magic is real.)
  • Or, see my website for my latest news.


Contemporary fantasy for your Kindle.

Briefly Noted: ‘My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You’

We often hear people say they’re feeling centered or feeling uncentered and take such comments to mean they’re having a good day or a bad day. True enough, but for those who want to know the true unity of the self, there are deeper personal explorations and stories to discover, tell and experience.

As I often suggest in my fiction, discovering the transcendent magic of oneself is often difficult in a science and technology world where we’re directly and indirectly taught as children that “the answers” come from books, experts, and the latest polls.

Years ago, we used to say that everything that influenced a child to seek answers outside himself/herself was akin to programming, and that by the time one reached adulthood those programs were often “running in the background” and very hard to get out of one’s system.

That said, I’m pleased when I see fiction and nonfiction for children that encourages them to think outside the box and discover the power and joy of the imagination. That’s how we get to the unified center of ourselves. The words “My Yehidah,” in Melissa Studdard’s new book My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You refer to an individual’s essential essence.

Studdard’s writing prompts, in combination with artist Cheryl Kelley’s illustrations, offer children—in and out of classroom or camp settings—a wonderful and lighthearted way to take exciting trips into the worlds of their imagination. We might call this a personal voyage of discovery.

The book can be used in combination with Studdard’s novel Six Weeks to Yehidah (reviewed here in August), showing young readers how the fairytale protagonist Annalise learned to explore her magical dreamscape; or it can be used as a standalone volume with or without adult mentors (parents, teachers, camp counselors, workshop facilitators).

The workbook was a joy to read and almost made me wish I was a kid again with no pre-programed horizons in front of me, setting off on my journey into my own center with a box of stories, some crayons and colored pencils and a copy of My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You as my private drawingboard.


One of the perks of being a writer

Most of us enjoy the world of our imagination even though many of our fantasies will forever be stamped CLASSIFIED.

As a writer, though, my job is spending large amounts of time with my imagination without having to admit to garden-variety daydreaming.

For example, I gave David Ward, my protagonist in Garden of Heaven some of my best and worst qualities. While people who really know me may debate which are which, those qualities include dreams I never fulfilled.

When I was younger, I wanted to work for the railroad, specifically the Great Northern, now a part of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe. The railroad was never hiring when I was looking. David Ward also wanted to work for the Great Northern. While it was not to be, he did get a chance to run a passenger locomotive for a few miles on the high line tracks east of Glacier National Park.

(Oddly enough, my wife and I were volunteers at a railway museum in the 1990s, and she turned out to be much better at running locomotives than I was, from a 44-ton yard goat to a mainline freight engine. Sigh.)

People who see my bad knees and ankles now can’t imagine that I used to climb mountains in Colorado and Montana, and (worse yet) that I actively wanted to climb Everest or K2. Unfortunately, such things were outside my budget.

But David Ward wasn’t cramped by his budget. So, I sent him off to climb K2, and (worse yet) to summit via the dangerous “magic line” route before it was called the “magic line.”

Pretending to run a diesel locomotive on the head end of a passenger train and to climb the most difficult mountain of the world are parts of my fantasy world. One of the perks of being a writer is using one’s active imagination and following through with such dreams in, perhaps, another reality or universe.