What’s a new year without starting a new novel?

 

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IT IS A NEW DAY, a new year, and the Muse is sitting in the shadows, sipping a cup of hot coffee I made the night before and smoking a cigarette even though he knows I have no ash trays and don’t allow smoking in the house.

He doesn’t care.

He doesn’t have to.

He’s the Muse.

He drinks his coffee black.

I use creamer.

“Sissy,” he says.

“I like hazelnut,” I say.

“I rest my case,” he says.

The Muse has had a job in my house for a long time now.

He doesn’t do much.

But he costs less than a shrink.

And, unlike a shrink, he gives advice.

I can take it.

Or leave it.

The Muse doesn’t care.

He doesn’t get paid for results.

“I’m beginning a new novel next week,” I tell him.

“You just finished two of them,” he says.

“I already miss them.”

“You’re crazy,” he said.

Unlike a shrink, the Muse will call you names.

He’s usually right.

“I need to start another one,” I say.

“Got any ideas?”

“No.”

“Got a main character?” he asks.

“I’m using the guy from the last one,” I say.

“You can’t use the preacher,” he says. “The preacher got himself shot and killed.”

I nodded.

“It’s from the other one,” I say. “Night Side of Dark.”

“You mean you’re bringing back the loony one?” he asks.

I nod.

“He reminds me a little of you,” the Muse says.

“We think a lot alike,” I say.

“You better.” The Muse laughs. “You’re the one putting words in his mouth,” he says.

“I need a little help,” I say.

He paused, thought it over for a moment, then asked, “You got a time frame for this novel?”

“Around the end of World War II.”

“It’s a war story?”

“No.”

“But the Nazis are the bad guys,” he says.

“The Nazis make good bad buys,” I say.

“You shoot ‘em, and nobody cries.”

“That’s about it.”

“Where does this non-war-story war story take place?”

“I don’t know.”

“So what do you need from me?”

“A story.”

“That’s over thinking it,” the Muse says. “Just start typing and wait for the story to catch up. It’ll show up sooner or later.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Why not?”

“I have a formula,” I say.

“What is it?’

“I write a new chapter every day,” I say.

“There’s nothing to it,” he says.

“Why do you say that?”

“Do you remember what I told Stephen King?” the Muse asked.

I shook my head.

I sat down on his shoulder every morning and whispered inspiration in his ear.”

“What’d you tell him?” I asked.

“It’s time to write, you sonuvabitch.”

And so it was.

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