JO’S MUSE TELLS ALL

Greetings, dear souls. This is Jo's muse, supplanting her this week, for who can better relate the story of her ascent into the glories of publication than the entity solely responsible for that and for all her subsequent literary achievements.TheMuse(Morse)www.metmuseum.org

And if there have been dips, take heed all ye who have artistic aspirations, they happened when she pissed me off.  *g*

But I came to her like a guardian angel at birth or even before. We do get some input into the pre-conception planning committee, you know. I couldn't swing a literary family, and I fought against the dysfunctional one so beloved of literary muses. All I requested was a book loving family, and that I achieved.

The Muse (Susan Walker Morse, 1836) The Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

Read to in the crib and taken to the library in the push chair; surrounded every evening by older siblings and parents with their attention on books, she was soon a fluent reader and not long after that began her first simple attempts at story telling.

And thus we progressed. We encountered a few stumbling blocks, not least the teachers who attempted to suppress imagination, trying instead to force their classes to write what they knew. What did you do in your summer holiday and such twaddle. Teachers who would tell children not to make things up. But we survived.

Jo passed the 11 plus exam and went to an excellent grammar school as a boarder, and at sixteen, she finally responded to my gentle prods and put pen to paper — or to be precise, pen to exercise book — to write a novel. A short novel, but a novel, and it is to my credit, I think, that she felt no trepidation and that she finished it. It helped that she could pass her medieval romance around to her friends, page by page, for acclamation and "what happens next?" Rich fuel for the literary fire. It was clear her chosen genre was historical romance and so I set my mind to that and firmly steered her, despite some wayward impulses on her part — Art? How dare an art muse try to intervene? — toward a history degree.

Through carelessness, I almost stumbled. Keele University insisted on a joint honors. Jo turned, naturally enough, toward the English department. I soon put a stop to that! We were destined for the popular arts. The lure of the different led her to American Studies, which has turned out to be useful even though Henry James was a sad trial.

University provided distractions and Jo ceased to write fiction, but she continued to read, especially Books2her prime comfort and relaxation author, Georgette Heyer. She was conscious at the time of enjoying experiences that could be of great use if she ever achieved her ambition — to give others the same reading pleasure that she had received from Heyer and from other similar authors.

My choice of Keele University was not, of course, accidental. It is a campus university, some way from urban distractions and built around a stately home, Keele Hall, which is still standing and used for teaching and social events. In a community of less than 2,000 she lived many aspects of the ton life of the Regency.

Like a ton season, this was a circumscribed world, both in dimensions and population. Like a ton season, business — education — blended with a continuous round of social activity. It was the flamboyant sixties and Keele was on the cutting edge. There were Brummels and Byrons, Lady Cowpers and Mary Shelleys, and some incidents distinctly reminiscent of Lady Caroline Lamb and Mad Jack Mytton!

Once Jo graduated, I inspired her once more to attempt stories but I could not drive her toward learning the business with any seriousness. So I sent her a mentor — an older fellow student of youth employment who was also a writer. This lady had sold a number of articles and other sorts of writing. She understood the world of publishing. After some more prodding by me, Jo agreed to do a project on writing as a career.

I sat back with satisfaction to watch events unfold.

They remained resolutely folded.

Did Jo join a writer's circle, as recommended? Did she write to publishers for advice? No, she put aside writing again, married and started a job.

I realized it was time for sterner measures, but this was when I realized that Jo perceived a completeTypewriter1 inability to type as a block. Perhaps she was correct. When I provided a typewriter, any attempt to produce one page of reasonable work was torture for her.

There was nothing for it but to retreat and work with the muses of technology to speed the development of the word processor. Mr. Gates and many others who profited by my labor have never thanked me.

When I turned my attention back to Jo, I realized with horror that she was rising extremely fast in her career. She had abandoned her writing aspirations. This would not do. A tempting offer for her husband, a CanadianFlagspirit of adventure, and soon they were off to Canada, where Jo's qualifications didn't translate. After a prod from me, Jo's husband said, "Why don't you write that novel you've always been talking about?"

So Jo did. Typing was still a struggle — my work with technology had not quite come to fruition — and so she abandoned the typewriter part way through and hand wrote the rest. But it was a novel, a Regency romance, and she now had the sense of being a writer.

But when she wrote to a publisher asking how to submit a book, she received a letter saying they only accepted agented submissions. She translated this to mean that there were some arcane qualifications needed, or membership of some select group. This might not have daunted her entirely if nature hadn't taken a hand and made her pregnant.

I was content with that, for a life of varied experience is beneficial to a writer and I was still rather busy with the personal computer. Jo's household soon had one of the earliest versions, and I was sure that as soon as she'd survived the earliest years of her son's life she would make full use of it.

I should have known Jo would develop a new enthusiasm. This time, it was woman-centered childbirth. Soon she was teaching classes, teaching teachers, and president of the local association. The alarm shrieked, however, when she began to write and sell articles on the subject.

I am not a muse of non-fiction! Another job move put an end to her involvement with the childbirthBinky group, and I decided the time for subtlety was over. I arranged for a talk at a nearby library on "How To Write A Romance." Two talks, in fact, on two Saturday afternoons.

Now, at last, someone laid out the facts — not so much a formula of romance writing for we know there isn't one, but the processes of publishing. And the speaker offered to read a short piece of people's work for comment the next week.

Despite the many bits and pieces scribbled in notebooks over the years, Jo didn't have anything solid to offer. So she went home and wrote the beginning of a Regency romance. Having read all-too many regencies that started with peculiar beginnings, from snow storms to heroines leaping out of windows into men's arms she, contrary as always, decided to write about two people who had placidly agreed to a very suitable engagement to be married.

It began: "It was the most talked-about and most tedious betrothal of the season." Though many parts of the book were rewritten over the next three years, that first short chapter remained almost entirely untouched.

PrayerfulThanks3The novel went out to publishers. Like all writers, Jo was sure the publishing world would fall on its knees in gratitude for such a wonder. Of course, it was rejected. She still needed to hone her fiction writing skills.

I created a writers' group in Montreal — the Writers Association for Romance and Mainstream, WARM — and a short story writing contest which Jo won, but the group wasn't completely satisfactory. It met only quarterly and was not particularly focused.

So I moved the family on to Ottawa and started a romance writers group there. Jo's arrival coincided with the first true meeting of the group, attended by twenty-five unpublished writers and two local romance authors. There would be monthly meetings with speakers on craft. I planted the idea of a working group of five who would critique one another's work. I finally felt all was in place.

Jo tried her hand at contemporary romance because everyone else in the group was writing those, but it wasn't for her. In a sign of the future, her completed contemporary novel was judged to be excellent but too different for publication. She joined an SF&F writers group and continued an interest in that. She entered a contest called Writers of the Future. I stood back and merely provided a little luck now and then.

Write1As long as she wrote fiction, I was content.

The stars moved into alignment in 1988. Jo sent her reworked regency romance to Walker Publications in New York, simply because they produced nice hardcovers that she borrowed from the library. She didn't know that this meant print runs of about 1,000, and I didn't care. I'm a muse, not a banker.

She received a long letter from the editor explaining all the reasons why the novel was not quite suitable for publication, and entirely missed the yets and buts. Fortunately the editor was impressed enough by the work to phone and ask if she was going to see it again. This cannot be depended upon.

Jo got to it, and Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed was purchased for publication. Within days she heard that she was a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and that her prize was paid publication in an annual anthology and a week-long writing workshop in California.

My work, of course. The process of publishing her first novel was an excellent learning experience, but I knew she would benefit from the intense focus of the writing workshop led by Algis Budrys and taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Orson Scott Card.

"The sky's the limit for this extraordinary talent," wrote Melinda Helfer, the wonderful regency reviewer for Romantic Times. The novel was a finalist for the RWA Golden Medallion (now the RITA.) We were on our way.ScandalousCountess

Now Jo has returned to England, her birthplace, and I continue my work, of course. We have over 40 novels to our credit. And Jo knows she would have achieved nothing without her word-processer and me.  Now that our newest book, A Scandalous Countess, is in bookstores, Jo is quite content to let me advise her on her next novel, so I am currently whispering in her ear . . .
 
~ Jo's muse

90 thoughts on “JO’S MUSE TELLS ALL”

  1. I love this post, Jo — it is such a lovely way to explore the long road to becoming a novelist. And thanks to your muse for all the arrangements she made, which otherwise I might have imagined were mere serendipity.
    Well done, that muse!

    Reply
  2. I love this post, Jo — it is such a lovely way to explore the long road to becoming a novelist. And thanks to your muse for all the arrangements she made, which otherwise I might have imagined were mere serendipity.
    Well done, that muse!

    Reply
  3. I love this post, Jo — it is such a lovely way to explore the long road to becoming a novelist. And thanks to your muse for all the arrangements she made, which otherwise I might have imagined were mere serendipity.
    Well done, that muse!

    Reply
  4. I love this post, Jo — it is such a lovely way to explore the long road to becoming a novelist. And thanks to your muse for all the arrangements she made, which otherwise I might have imagined were mere serendipity.
    Well done, that muse!

    Reply
  5. I love this post, Jo — it is such a lovely way to explore the long road to becoming a novelist. And thanks to your muse for all the arrangements she made, which otherwise I might have imagined were mere serendipity.
    Well done, that muse!

    Reply
  6. ‘Tis SUCH a pity that Muses must meet bankers! I suspect that my muse was working with yours on the computer thing since my career didn’t start till I got a PC. They do good work, those Muse girls!

    Reply
  7. ‘Tis SUCH a pity that Muses must meet bankers! I suspect that my muse was working with yours on the computer thing since my career didn’t start till I got a PC. They do good work, those Muse girls!

    Reply
  8. ‘Tis SUCH a pity that Muses must meet bankers! I suspect that my muse was working with yours on the computer thing since my career didn’t start till I got a PC. They do good work, those Muse girls!

    Reply
  9. ‘Tis SUCH a pity that Muses must meet bankers! I suspect that my muse was working with yours on the computer thing since my career didn’t start till I got a PC. They do good work, those Muse girls!

    Reply
  10. ‘Tis SUCH a pity that Muses must meet bankers! I suspect that my muse was working with yours on the computer thing since my career didn’t start till I got a PC. They do good work, those Muse girls!

    Reply
  11. Muses are such lovely companions because they are far more intelligent—and far more stubborn—than we writers are. Somehow they know what is good for us when we ourselves are dithering or sure it cannot happen.
    Thank you, Jo’s Muse for sticking with it and inspiring her to give us her glorious stories!

    Reply
  12. Muses are such lovely companions because they are far more intelligent—and far more stubborn—than we writers are. Somehow they know what is good for us when we ourselves are dithering or sure it cannot happen.
    Thank you, Jo’s Muse for sticking with it and inspiring her to give us her glorious stories!

    Reply
  13. Muses are such lovely companions because they are far more intelligent—and far more stubborn—than we writers are. Somehow they know what is good for us when we ourselves are dithering or sure it cannot happen.
    Thank you, Jo’s Muse for sticking with it and inspiring her to give us her glorious stories!

    Reply
  14. Muses are such lovely companions because they are far more intelligent—and far more stubborn—than we writers are. Somehow they know what is good for us when we ourselves are dithering or sure it cannot happen.
    Thank you, Jo’s Muse for sticking with it and inspiring her to give us her glorious stories!

    Reply
  15. Muses are such lovely companions because they are far more intelligent—and far more stubborn—than we writers are. Somehow they know what is good for us when we ourselves are dithering or sure it cannot happen.
    Thank you, Jo’s Muse for sticking with it and inspiring her to give us her glorious stories!

    Reply
  16. Wonderful post, Jo! I’ve heard you talk about your road to publication before, but this post showed parts of it in a different light.

    Reply
  17. Wonderful post, Jo! I’ve heard you talk about your road to publication before, but this post showed parts of it in a different light.

    Reply
  18. Wonderful post, Jo! I’ve heard you talk about your road to publication before, but this post showed parts of it in a different light.

    Reply
  19. Wonderful post, Jo! I’ve heard you talk about your road to publication before, but this post showed parts of it in a different light.

    Reply
  20. Wonderful post, Jo! I’ve heard you talk about your road to publication before, but this post showed parts of it in a different light.

    Reply
  21. Thanks, everyone. A muse is an odd but essential part of a writer, I believe, but happily they can come in many forms. And I do think we only recognize their work after the event.
    Though there have been times when it’s been more like a bash on the head!
    Jo

    Reply
  22. Thanks, everyone. A muse is an odd but essential part of a writer, I believe, but happily they can come in many forms. And I do think we only recognize their work after the event.
    Though there have been times when it’s been more like a bash on the head!
    Jo

    Reply
  23. Thanks, everyone. A muse is an odd but essential part of a writer, I believe, but happily they can come in many forms. And I do think we only recognize their work after the event.
    Though there have been times when it’s been more like a bash on the head!
    Jo

    Reply
  24. Thanks, everyone. A muse is an odd but essential part of a writer, I believe, but happily they can come in many forms. And I do think we only recognize their work after the event.
    Though there have been times when it’s been more like a bash on the head!
    Jo

    Reply
  25. Thanks, everyone. A muse is an odd but essential part of a writer, I believe, but happily they can come in many forms. And I do think we only recognize their work after the event.
    Though there have been times when it’s been more like a bash on the head!
    Jo

    Reply
  26. Sherrie here. My experience with muses has been mixed. Most of the time, they are helpful, and provide inspiration when you need it. But sometimes she gets rambunctious and sends you a bolt of inspiration at the most inopportune time: while you’re in the shower; hanging from the end of a bungee rope; in the middle of a boring conversation with a boring person; while cleaning the cat’s litter box. And if you don’t stop and write it down immediately, not matter what you’re doing, the muse takes it back and it’s lost forever.
    Or so it seems, at times! *g*

    Reply
  27. Sherrie here. My experience with muses has been mixed. Most of the time, they are helpful, and provide inspiration when you need it. But sometimes she gets rambunctious and sends you a bolt of inspiration at the most inopportune time: while you’re in the shower; hanging from the end of a bungee rope; in the middle of a boring conversation with a boring person; while cleaning the cat’s litter box. And if you don’t stop and write it down immediately, not matter what you’re doing, the muse takes it back and it’s lost forever.
    Or so it seems, at times! *g*

    Reply
  28. Sherrie here. My experience with muses has been mixed. Most of the time, they are helpful, and provide inspiration when you need it. But sometimes she gets rambunctious and sends you a bolt of inspiration at the most inopportune time: while you’re in the shower; hanging from the end of a bungee rope; in the middle of a boring conversation with a boring person; while cleaning the cat’s litter box. And if you don’t stop and write it down immediately, not matter what you’re doing, the muse takes it back and it’s lost forever.
    Or so it seems, at times! *g*

    Reply
  29. Sherrie here. My experience with muses has been mixed. Most of the time, they are helpful, and provide inspiration when you need it. But sometimes she gets rambunctious and sends you a bolt of inspiration at the most inopportune time: while you’re in the shower; hanging from the end of a bungee rope; in the middle of a boring conversation with a boring person; while cleaning the cat’s litter box. And if you don’t stop and write it down immediately, not matter what you’re doing, the muse takes it back and it’s lost forever.
    Or so it seems, at times! *g*

    Reply
  30. Sherrie here. My experience with muses has been mixed. Most of the time, they are helpful, and provide inspiration when you need it. But sometimes she gets rambunctious and sends you a bolt of inspiration at the most inopportune time: while you’re in the shower; hanging from the end of a bungee rope; in the middle of a boring conversation with a boring person; while cleaning the cat’s litter box. And if you don’t stop and write it down immediately, not matter what you’re doing, the muse takes it back and it’s lost forever.
    Or so it seems, at times! *g*

    Reply
  31. Recently I have been re-reading some of your early medievals and I have to say that Shattered Rose and Dark Champion are absolutely superb books–my favorite of yours and perhaps my favorites of all time. I’m so glad your muse persisted!

    Reply
  32. Recently I have been re-reading some of your early medievals and I have to say that Shattered Rose and Dark Champion are absolutely superb books–my favorite of yours and perhaps my favorites of all time. I’m so glad your muse persisted!

    Reply
  33. Recently I have been re-reading some of your early medievals and I have to say that Shattered Rose and Dark Champion are absolutely superb books–my favorite of yours and perhaps my favorites of all time. I’m so glad your muse persisted!

    Reply
  34. Recently I have been re-reading some of your early medievals and I have to say that Shattered Rose and Dark Champion are absolutely superb books–my favorite of yours and perhaps my favorites of all time. I’m so glad your muse persisted!

    Reply
  35. Recently I have been re-reading some of your early medievals and I have to say that Shattered Rose and Dark Champion are absolutely superb books–my favorite of yours and perhaps my favorites of all time. I’m so glad your muse persisted!

    Reply
  36. Bravo, brava, bravissimo!!! Such a muse! Such a life well lived! Such a talent of which we share the rewards!! May our association continue.

    Reply
  37. Bravo, brava, bravissimo!!! Such a muse! Such a life well lived! Such a talent of which we share the rewards!! May our association continue.

    Reply
  38. Bravo, brava, bravissimo!!! Such a muse! Such a life well lived! Such a talent of which we share the rewards!! May our association continue.

    Reply
  39. Bravo, brava, bravissimo!!! Such a muse! Such a life well lived! Such a talent of which we share the rewards!! May our association continue.

    Reply
  40. Bravo, brava, bravissimo!!! Such a muse! Such a life well lived! Such a talent of which we share the rewards!! May our association continue.

    Reply
  41. Thank goodness for that muse! I have received countless hours of enjoyment because your muse kept after you!
    There are days I really love my muse and there are days I want to run over her with my car. Shades of Jack London I guess!

    Reply
  42. Thank goodness for that muse! I have received countless hours of enjoyment because your muse kept after you!
    There are days I really love my muse and there are days I want to run over her with my car. Shades of Jack London I guess!

    Reply
  43. Thank goodness for that muse! I have received countless hours of enjoyment because your muse kept after you!
    There are days I really love my muse and there are days I want to run over her with my car. Shades of Jack London I guess!

    Reply
  44. Thank goodness for that muse! I have received countless hours of enjoyment because your muse kept after you!
    There are days I really love my muse and there are days I want to run over her with my car. Shades of Jack London I guess!

    Reply
  45. Thank goodness for that muse! I have received countless hours of enjoyment because your muse kept after you!
    There are days I really love my muse and there are days I want to run over her with my car. Shades of Jack London I guess!

    Reply
  46. Gott sei Dank für diese Muse! Ich habe unzählige Stunden des Genusses erhalten, weil Ihre Muse gehalten, nachdem Sie! Mein Favorit von Ihnen und vielleicht meinen Favoriten aller Zeiten. Ich bin so froh, deine Muse hielt!

    Reply
  47. Gott sei Dank für diese Muse! Ich habe unzählige Stunden des Genusses erhalten, weil Ihre Muse gehalten, nachdem Sie! Mein Favorit von Ihnen und vielleicht meinen Favoriten aller Zeiten. Ich bin so froh, deine Muse hielt!

    Reply
  48. Gott sei Dank für diese Muse! Ich habe unzählige Stunden des Genusses erhalten, weil Ihre Muse gehalten, nachdem Sie! Mein Favorit von Ihnen und vielleicht meinen Favoriten aller Zeiten. Ich bin so froh, deine Muse hielt!

    Reply
  49. Gott sei Dank für diese Muse! Ich habe unzählige Stunden des Genusses erhalten, weil Ihre Muse gehalten, nachdem Sie! Mein Favorit von Ihnen und vielleicht meinen Favoriten aller Zeiten. Ich bin so froh, deine Muse hielt!

    Reply
  50. Gott sei Dank für diese Muse! Ich habe unzählige Stunden des Genusses erhalten, weil Ihre Muse gehalten, nachdem Sie! Mein Favorit von Ihnen und vielleicht meinen Favoriten aller Zeiten. Ich bin so froh, deine Muse hielt!

    Reply

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