My muse no longer trusts me.
That is the great truth I’ve recently come to accept.
Now, to explain it all, I need to back up, because although authors often talk about their muses, the truth is, I’d never given much attention to mine. I’d never put a face to it. I never really even acknowledged it. And in ignoring it, and ignoring the environment in which it lived, I very nearly lost it.
It’s maybe ironic that so many authors talk about “plot bunnies”, because in the last two days, that is the image I’ve come to associate with my muse: a rabbit. A small, white rabbit, in a meadow, surrounded by the forest. In the beginning, he was brave and playful, unaware of what lurked in the woods.
Am I being too strange? Let me back up yet again.
When I wrote Promises, I knew nothing about this genre. Yes, I’d read a few gay romances, but I didn’t realize how big (and at the same time, how small) the genre is. I’d never heard of Goodreads, or Jessewave or any of the other sites that would later become part of the landscape of my life. I was only vaguely aware of ebooks. I’d never even heard of Samhain or Loose Id. When I finished Promises, I pulled the m/m books off of my shelf and checked the back cover to see who had published them: MLR Press, Torquere, and Dreamspinner. When Dreamspinner accepted Promises, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Fast forward a few months. I’m fumbling my way around this vast cyberworld that both makes up and encompasses my genre. My bunny is playing happily in his meadow, and I’m churning out stories at a stupid pace. A to Z, One More Soldier, The Letter Z, and Strawberries for Dessert all just fell into place. And I continue on, venturing deeper into the woods, unaware of the little bunny behind me.
I can’t really say for sure when I became aware of the wolves, but they’re there. Maybe the wolves take different forms for different people, but for me, they’re multi-faced and multi-faceted. They’re all over this m/m cyberworld. Some of them spend their days bitching endlessly about this genre, but the worst of them are the ones who turn on each other out of nothing more than boredom or the need to try to prove themselves the Alpha. They’re the ones who want everybody to be a wolf.
But some of us just aren’t.
Not far from my house is a big open field, and in it, there are tons of prairie dogs. Last Memorial Day weekend, the city decided to fill in their holes. Hapless prairie dogs were suddenly scurrying through our neighborhood, with no place to go. Unfortunately for one, during our Memorial Day barbecue, he found himself in my yard with my very large dog. We looked out the sliding glass door to see my dog whipping the poor little thing around his head like a ragdoll. It was bloody and horrifying and really rather brutal.
I share this disturbing image with you now because this is what my rabbit saw when he finally looked out into the woods: wolves tearing other little critters apart. He found this inexplicable violence random, meaningless, and utterly horrifying.
And me? Yes, I was aware of the wolves, but I didn’t think they had anything to do with my muse. I assured my bunny he was safe. The wolves could not touch him in the circle of his meadow. And he played on.
Fast forward again several months to early 2011. Somehow, the woods are taking over my little meadow. My bunny is scared, but I tell him it’s fine. The wolves push their way into what little of the clearing remains. I see them, their jaws snapping and their hackles raised, circling and snarling and salivating. And yet still, I tell my bunny, “It’s fine. They’re tame enough. They can’t hurt you.”
The thing is, I was wrong.
That image of my huge dog savaging the helpless prairie dog? That’s the image I have of what happened next. The wolves got to my bunny muse. They very nearly destroyed it.
Now, had I realized then what had happened, it might have been different. I might have taken cover with my muse. I might have nursed it back to health and convinced it that it would be fine. But that’s not what I did. I wasn’t aware enough of my muse to see what had happened. Instead, I railed against the environment. Why are the wolves there and why do they have to be so fierce? Why do we allow them? Why do some people bait them and feed them and even encourage them? Why do we bend over backward to accommodate them? Why should I have to put up with them at all?
I still don’t really know the answers to those questions. I suppose for some people, the wolves are fun. I suppose for some, the wolves themselves might be the muse. What I’ve come to realize for myself is that the answers are irrelevant. But my muse is not.
I once saw an SUV run over a squirrel. It wasn’t killed. Its back was broken, and it used its front paws to pull its broken little body out of the street and up into the grass where it lay, panting. And I sobbed for it.
That’s the image I have in my head for what happened next. My poor little muse pulled its broken and bloody body (without my help) into its hole. It burrowed down deep. It curled up. And it waited — not to heal, but to die. Because that was the only thing worth doing. What would be the point of healing? It could no longer stand the thought of venturing out of its hole. It could no longer trust me to keep the wolves at bay. It wanted nothing more than to cease to be.
If this all sounds melodramatic, all I can say is, it felt very real to me. It was February when my little bleeding muse took to his burrow. I spent a few months looking around, wondering stupidly where he’d gone. I spent a few more trying to reason with him. I’ve spent the last couple trying to patiently lure him out. Because although he longed so much to die, he didn’t get his wish. He lived on. And although here, in Colorado, winter draws near, in my bunny’s little meadow, it’s beginning to look like spring. The sun is warming the ground. The birds are singing. And my muse wonders if maybe, just maybe, he has enough strength and enough bravery to play.
I can’t keep assuring him. Words mean nothing. The only thing that matters is proving my intent, and my intent now is to make the meadow the secure.
What does that mean? It means not venturing into the woods. It means not baiting the wolves.
Yes Marie, we get it, you may say. But in real-world terms, WTF are you saying? What exactly does it mean to secure the meadow?
To a large extent, what it means is climbing into the burrow with my bunny. It means shutting off vast sections of my online life. It means not venturing into those areas where people tear my beloved genre apart like some defenseless prairie dog. It means not engaging with any of those people who seem to want nothing more than to prove that their muse is better than mine. Because the truth is, maybe their muse is better, but this poor little wounded, scarred, scared furtive bunny is mine. And I miss him. I think it’s time he remembered how to play.