Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Unraveling Timelines


The neat thing about my writing office is my “environment on demand”. I can change what’s outside depending on what my creative energy needs.

I need a break. Today I walk out of my office onto a dock that reaches into a forest lake. The dock is high enough that when I sit at the end of it, my feet dangle about a foot above the water. I lean over the lower rung of the railing and kick my feet, the childish movement a good outlet for my writer’s angst.

I toss a pebble into the water. Ploop. Another pebble, and the ripples skate over the surface.

My Muse sets a cooler beside me, then settles on my other side, long legs swinging in time with mine. He takes a small flat rock from my pile and slings it. It skips four times before sinking below the surface. “I thought after the dreary, cold, rainy week you’ve had you’d be sitting on a sandy tropical beach under an umbrella.”

I fold my arms on the railing. “Nope.”

He mirrors me. “Stuck?”



“Not sure. The scene’s not working right, and I’m not sure how to fix it.”

“It’s the new scene, right?”

“No, it’s a new version of an old scene.”

“Same diff.” He reaches behind me and drags the cooler to him. He opens one bottle and hands it to me. It’s not Man in the Moon, but one of Schell’s craft beers. He opens his own and takes a swig before leaning back over the rail, bottle dangling from his fingers. “What about a new order of events?”

“Maybe. That’s what one of my writing sisters suggested. I’m trying to work through that in my head. It’d make things easier as far as walking through the case.”

Footsteps crescendo behind us, then stop. I don’t bother to turn; I suspect who it is.

“She hates me.”

I roll my eyes and swallow some beer. “She doesn’t hate you.”

“I’m accusing her of being involved in the case, but I know she isn’t.”

“Quinn, you’re a cop. Can you prove she’s innocent?”

Silence. I sense him crouch behind me. He picks a couple skipping stones from my pile, then straightens. His first attempt fails. His second skips twice. “I don’t know.”

“Isn’t is supposed to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’, not the other way around?” my Muse says. “Seems to me you should be looking for ways to prove someone else is guilty. You have another suspect.”

“My other suspect is dead.”

“Liar.” My Muse takes another pull from his beer. “You tell Sierra about it, yet?”

Quinn picks another couple stones from my pile. “She’s not talking to me.” He tosses a rock far into the lake. Ripples coat the surface. “Will you go back to earlier? Breakfast would be good. She was talking to me then.”

I sigh. “It doesn’t matter when she was talking to you. You know as soon as you bring up what CSU found in her apartment she’s going to push back. It’s got to happen, and it doesn’t matter where I take the story back to.”

“It didn’t happen in the other timeline.”

“Yes, it did. It just had everything to do with you telling her what to do, and nothing to do with her possible involvement in the case. This is a mystery–she’s got to be a suspect. I had to rework the timeline.”

“The new timeline sucks.”

Tough shit. “The new timeline is cleaner.”

“Says who?”

“Says the writer who created your ass.” My Muse finishes his beer and pops the top off another. “Besides, why are you doing your job at home, anyway? I thought you learned your lesson when your ex-wife …”

“This has nothing to do with–”

“It has everything to do with her.” My Muse nudges me. “There you go. He doesn’t want to confront Sierra at home because his job drove a wedge between him and his ex-wife, etcetera, etcetera. Relocate the scene to his office.”

The more I think about it, the more that idea seems to require the least unraveling and re-weaving of the timeline. I finish my beer, and rummage around in the cooler for a pick-me-up. Ah-ha! Ghiradelli chocolate. My Muse knows what I like.

So, the moral is: when you get stuck, sit out on the dock of the bay, waste some time, talk to your muse, and unravel a timeline or two.

Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate!!





Author: Julie Holmes, author

Pen names: J. M. Holmes, J. M. Goebel A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I've been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, two chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

13 thoughts on “Unraveling Timelines

  1. Oh, that Quinn, he just wants it both ways. Detective and Sierra’s lover — great chocolate source. It’s here in San Francisco, you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, the Ghiradelli factory is on the Bay, if I remember correctly. I figure, if I can’t get the good European stuff, and Lady Godiva is a bit pricey, Ghiradelli is the winner. Great chocolate, esp the dark chocolate/mint. Mmm, chocolate.


  2. Sounds like a perfect way to sort your thoughts and writing troubles – glad your muse is (in the end) such a help and of course – where would life be without chocolate! Happy Weekend, Julie!πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All that angst and ambivalence from Quinn. An interesting character. I’m suddenly thinking that these conversations with the muse and your characters are all real – that you really have them. You do, don’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so wish to live in place like this. Amazing it is to just walk outside and find rich nature instead of concrete surrounding you. πŸ™‚


  5. I’ve had to unravel a timeline now and again and though it isn’t easy, it’s always paid off in the end. That was a nice break you had and a motivating conversation with your muse (aren’t they great). It’s always nice to have your characters drop by and insert their .02 too πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’ll pay off, but you’re right, it isn’t easy. I’ve been spinning on a couple scenes that I need to reweave, and I know the revisions will make it better, but I’m having trouble getting into the new version of the scene in my head. I think I might have it now, though, after a day and a half of percolating. And yes, the Muses are great! Especially when he remembers to bring beer AND the good chocolates! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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