Saturday, July 23, 2016

Excerpt: Uninspired Muse, Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Muse #3

Posted by: R.L. Naquin

Not long ago, I gave you the awesome news that I'm doing a brand new spinoff series with Carina Press--Djinn Haven. I'm super excited, but there was a catch. I'm still working on book #3 of the Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Muse series. In order to make my deadline with Carina for the new series, I had to set aside the Muse book for a little while. 

I know a lot of people are waiting for this book, so I thought I could at least share an excerpt until I can get back to it and get it out to you. Keep in mind, it hasn't been edited. This is the raw stuff, folks. My editor hasn't even read it. 

Djinn Haven #1, To Catch a Stolen Soul will be out from Carina Press in January. Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Muse #3, Uninspired Muse will be out in a few months, as soon as I can get back to it. If you haven't read the first two, you can get them from the links below. 

This sample of book #3 shouldn't be too spoilery. All you need to know going in is our Muse is about to "meet" her new client, world renowned fantasy artist Gordon Gordon. He's in a bit of a slump. Enjoy!

Uninspired Muse 

Chapter 3

Despite having my equipment with me, I had no real intention of inspiring Gordon Gordon that day. It was Thursday, so I figured I’d assess him, figure out what he needed to do and maybe why he needed a Muse to get it done, then spend Friday blowing inspiration bubbles at him to test his susceptibility to my influence. On Monday, we’d start fresh in ernest.

I emerged from the crowded, elaborately decorated Mt. Olympus Employment Agency building to a run-down neighborhood along the Kansas River in Topeka. The elegant skyscraper I’d been in now appeared to be an abandoned, two-story building with broken windows and a homeless dude smoking a cigarette while he leaned against a wall. He was always there. The first time I’d seen him was the day I’d started orientation. He’d been peeing on the wall that day.

“Hey Syd.” I waved.

He left the cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth and waved back. “What’s the good news, Wynter?”

I grimaced. “None today. How about you?”

He shrugged. “Couple of guys were eyeing your car. Took care of it.”

“I appreciate it.” My smile was genuine, though my mood still wasn’t any lighter.

“Just doing my job. You try to have a better day, you hear?”

“Doing my best Syd. You do the same.”

In my car, I pulled out my assignment and punched Gordon’s address into my new GPS, then jumped on the highway. He lived clear across town, which would be annoying, except that it wasn’t too far from where I lived.

That didn’t help my sour mood. Probably, nothing short of a litter of kittens wearing tiny party hats and chasing a laser dot would pull me out of my funk.

A person would have to be a soulless ghoul not to be happy with all that going on.

Gordon’s house was in a quiet neighborhood and had a larger yard than most. Since we were into November, the grass didn’t have much green left to it, and the few small trees had hit that gorgeous bright orange stage with brown leaves dropping even as I watched. After pausing to get a good look at the house, I kept going. One block up and one block over — that was the rule of thumb. A Muse was never supposed to park right in front of a client’s house, especially since we’d be going there at least several times a week, if not every day. Somebody was bound to notice. In fact, we tried to park in a different place each time to avoid suspicion. Nobody wanted to tangle with a neighborhood watch.

I locked the car and pressed the button on the buckle of my belt. I felt no different and could see my own arms and legs without any trouble, but no one else would be able to see me.

I was invisible.

Despite having done this countless times, it always made me a little nervous. Since I wasn’t invisible to myself, I had no way of knowing for sure if the belt worked. A dark-haired woman in sweats raked leaves across the street. She stopped and rested for a moment, glancing around the neighborhood and brushing her hair off her face. I waved at her. Vigorously. She looked past me, then away. Either she was a bitch, or I was invisible. She went back to work, smiling to herself and humming. So, probably not a bitch. My belt was functional. Probably.

I strode up the block and around the corner to Gordon’s house. No one, humming or otherwise, appeared to care much about the leaves in his yard. The wind picked up as I approached the front door and, due to a recent rainstorm, leaves collected around my ankles like wet starfish.

Maybe I’d inspire my new client to do a little yard work while I was at it.

At the door, I took a deep breath and stepped through into the house. Again, no matter how many times I walked through closed doors, I half expected to slam my head into the hard surface. As always, the magic in my belt sent me through.

I stood in a vacant living room. The furniture was all dark leather and glass, and the floors were bare wood with a burgundy and navy throw rug in the center. A floorboard creaked from somewhere deeper in the house, and I followed the sound.

The doorway to the left led to the kitchen and dining room. I followed the doorway to the right down the hallway and found my target. The entire room — originally a bedroom — was tricked out as an art studio. Blank canvases leaned again one wall, and what appeared to be several completed paintings faced the wall, half-covered with a cloth. Multiple easels were set up around the room at different angles, presumably to catch the light at different times of day.

A large drop cloth speckled in bright colors covered the main traffic areas of the floor. And a wooden table held tubes of paint, jars of brushes, solvents, cloths, and palettes.

Gordon stood barefoot and bare chested in the middle of the room, gazing out the window. His dark hair hung over one chestnut eye. He ran stained fingers through it and dropped onto a stool next to him. He sighed and rubbed his palms over his jeans.

I folded my arms and leaned against a clean, bare spot on the wall by the door. “What’s keeping you from working, my barely dressed friend?”

He groaned and glanced at the blank canvas propped on the easel. His weight shifted, and he slid off the stool to pad over to the paint table. With a rag in one hand and a brush in the other, he paced the length of the room. He stopped in front of the window, wiped the brush on the cloth, then resumed pacing.

“Oh, you’re a mess, aren’t you?” I’d seen this sort of thing before. Something was on the guy’s mind. Something big.

“I can’t work in here today. It’s just…it’s too much.” He tossed the rag and paintbrush on the table and strode past me out the door.

I followed him. I’d learned over time that it was better on the first visit to pay more attention to the client and get a feel for what was stopping the creative juices from flowing than it was to actually begin the inspirations. This guy was in no condition for me to start working on him.

We wove our way through the house, stopping in the living room while he picked up then dropped a magazine. Gordon led us to the kitchen, where he grabbed an apple, took a bite, then left it wobbling on the counter.

He stopped for a full five minutes to stare at a squirrel scurrying up the tree outside the kitchen window, then let out a sigh and left the kitchen for the den. I was seriously afraid the guy was going to whip out a clove cigarette and an acoustic guitar. He clearly had a lot of feelings he needed to express.


Rachel writes stories that drop average people into magical situations filled with heart and quirky humor.

She believes in pixie dust, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks and putting things off until the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas. Rachel has one husband, two grown kids and a crazy-catlady starter kit.

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