Published by Splashdown Books (2009)
(I received an advance copy a few years ago, and am ashamed to say I just now got to it. I should have read it earlier as it's very good and comes highly recommended from this reviewer, probably 8 out of 10 stars. Maybe I should buy the sequel, The Seer, and read and review that as soon as possible!)
Fred Warren's The Muse is a heart warming fairy tale that moves from reality to creative imagination and back again while expertly weaving together plot, setting, and characters - obviously the key elements in any good story. This short novel is a nicely accomplished metafiction (a story about storytelling), which is difficult to pull off, from my perspective. Many novel-themed novels can be self-conscious and this one isn't due to Warren's unpretentious third person voice and likability of Stan and his two friends, Jilly and Davos.
The set up is simple: These three writers meet a muse, of sorts, and strange things start happening. Some of the strangeness is a bit unbelievable, and yet the characters are so likable you just go with it. Creativity is strange, after all. And while it doesn't take long to realize that the "muse" turns out to be just as bad as she was suspicious when she first showed up, the experienced writing and interesting scenarios kept me hooked. While it's not necessarily a page turner plot-wise, there are just enough creative revelations (which Warren hints at throughout) that are wonderfully revealed in the final climax and resolution that reward the faithful reader.
Most of the writing is solid (some wonderful turns of phrases) but some of the dialog colloquialisms are already dated (da bomb!). However, this is a minor quibble and can be explained by this particular character's idiosyncrasies. Recommended as a middle grade or young adult novel (or for those who are young at heart) with nothing objectionable, although a few deaths do occur. And while the novel deals with some spiritual issues (and a little bit of angel speculation) it is not a tract for any particular religious group. A family safe bet for the whole family.