Category Archives: monday muse

Monday Muse: Coloring for Grownups


When I was a kid, I loved coloring books and crayons. There was nothing more wonderful than opening a new 64-count box of Crayolas — all those colors, so much prettiness to be made! Reading was always my favorite pastime, but if I wasn’t reading, I was coloring and drawing with my crayons.

When I got older, though, I didn’t do that much. There’s something not quite grown-up about craving a box of crayons, and there is always something more important to do than coloring. When I visit an office supply store, I drop by the pen and marker aisle to admire the Sharpies display, and every once in a while I will buy an assortment. But I never end up doing much with them beyond multicolor editing of my latest writing project.

Which is why I fell in love with Colourlovers. It is a website that brings out the colorful creativity in grownups who are much too busy and important to waste time with a coloring book. You can find it at, but be careful — it can turn into a serious time suck it you let it!

Colourlovers gives you access to thousands of pattern templates and color palettes by its members, and you can design your own if you are so inclined. But what I enjoy most is simply taking a pretty pattern and playing with colors until I make something pretty. With just a few clicks, you can change the colors over and over and see how a tiny change can alter the feeling of a pattern completely. I like to play with patterns and colors to find one that reflects the characters and emotions I am writing into my current project, and I look at them to help me get into my characters’ mindsets when it is time to write. The seamless patterns you color can be also be used as computer wallpaper or printed out to use in real-time projects.

The pattern above is one I colored from a template by Colourlover member Weirdy; I named it “Romance” because I think it looks sweet and traditional, much like my beloved Regency Romances. The pattern below, from a template by Eonscintilla reminded me of Dracula and his elegant, deadly brides, so I called it Vampirella.

If you like coloring (and wasting time online), check out Colourlovers! And look me up there – I’m “Romancemama.”


Monday Muse: Advice from Kurt

For today’s Monday Muse advice, I’ll just turn it over to someone who has forgotten more about writing than I could ever learn – here’s Kurt Vonnegut’s advice for writing fiction:


Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

— Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

The Monday Muse: Even a Muse Needs a Makeover!


A writing friend and I were discussing our manuscripts the other day. She’s a bit newer to the whole path-to-publication madness than I am, and she was bemoaning what she perceived as the shortcomings in her Work In Progress. “I read mine,” she said, “and then I read your manuscript, and I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to write that well.”

Now, I am not telling you this story to shamelessly brag on my writing. Rather the opposite, in fact. Because my answer to my friend was basically, “I don’t think I’ll ever write that well either.” You see, my manuscript, which my agent has out on submission to several publishers, is not what I wrote. My writing, quite frankly, is not nearly as good as what ended up in my manuscript.

So, what happened? My writing appeared in the first draft, lo, these many months ago. Then I edited. And re-edited. And sent it out to beta readers. And re-edited. And then did some major rewrites. And more re-editing. What the editors are reading (and hopefully falling in love with!) is not exactly my writing. It is my writing after extensive plastic surgery, weightloss, and a professional makeup job.

Really, have you ever seen those photos in the grocery store tabloids — Celebrities Without Makeup? Some of the most gorgeous women in the world look a little — or a lot — less appealing in the cold hard light of day, sans makeup, hair, and designer clothes. For example, take the incredibly gorgeous, incredibly talented Sofia Vergara. I love her in Modern Family, where one of the running jokes is how her over-the-top gorgeousness affects men. But I recently found a photo where Sofia was — how shall I say this? Not quite over the top. Here it is:


After you get over the shock, though, you can see the improved version of Sofia lurking somewhere in there. The woman in the first photo has great bone structure, good hair, and all the other things she needs. At this point, though, those natural attributes need to be polished to bring her up to the level we know and recognize as “Sofia Vergara.”

Your manuscript, hot off the first draft press, is the unmade up, greasy-haired, sweat-pants and tee-shirt version of your story. Don’t compare it to other people’s writing until you’ve hired it a stylist, done its makeup and coiffure, draped it in borrowed jewels from Harry Winston, and shoved it into Spanx and a beaded evening gown. When it’s ready to hit the red carpet, it’s ready to submit.

Monday Muse: Songs That Say it All


I was talking with my dear friend and crit partner, Deann Smith, this weekend, and we got on the subject of writing to music. I know there are people out there who don’t use music when they write, but I’m damned if I understand how they do it. The very first thing Bridget my muse and I do when we start thinking about a story is to build at least a tentative “soundtrack” of music that somehow relates to the story, and we refine the list throughout the writing. As characters and scenes come together, Bridget tells me to download songs that reflect the changes.

With each book, we’ve had one or two wonderful serendipitous moments when we heard a song that, because of the story, suddenly took on a new meaning. For example a few months ago, I was writing a story where the heroine found out an ugly truth about the cad she was in love with. I knew she found out, I knew how she learned the truth, but then — I was stumped. Where did she go from there? What did he do when she knew? I was baffled, and Bridget wasn’t saying a thing to me. Then, luckily, one of my daughters was listening to Rihanna. Normally, I tune the girls’ stuff out. But this one song hit me:

You look so dumb right now
Standing outside my house
Trying to apologize
You’re so ugly when you cry
Please, just cut it out

Don’t tell me you’re sorry ’cause you’re not
And baby when I know you’re only sorry you got caught

But you put on quite a show, really had me going
But now it’s time to go, curtain’s finally closing
That was quite a show, very entertaining
But it’s over now
Go on and take a bow*

Wow. Of course. Bridget jumped on that. My heroine went home to cry it out and try to figure out how she would survive the pain and betrayal, and he came to find her. Bridget and I could actually see the cad, standing outside the house, asking to come in and apologize to the heroine – and it only hurt her even more to know that he was, as Rihanna sang it so beautifully, only sorry he got caught. After that, Bridget demanded that I listen to Take a Bow over and over til the scene was written.

I cannot say enough about songwriters. The really good ones manage to tell a whole story in the space of just a few lines, when we fiction writers struggle to say it in pages. They can put feelings into focus and cut right to the heart of tangled emotions. Nowadays, I skip madly about the radio dial when I’m driving, ever in hope of hearing that one perfect song that will help me understand where my characters are and what they’re feeling.

Have you ever had one song that clarified tangled emotions or helped you realize what came next? I’d love to hear about it!

*song written and produced by Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel Eriksen, and Shaffer Smith

Monday Muse – Seven Crows A Secret


One crow sorrow,
Two crows joy.
Three crows a girl,
Four crows a boy.
Five crows silver,
Six crows gold.
Seven crows a secret that’s never been told.

Well, kids, big news! Bridget, my darling muse, and I got a very interesting email this weekend. And while I am the soul of discretion, poor Bridgie does not do well with secrets. She is absolutely bursting to tell you all what’s up, but I have her bound and gagged in the corner of my writing room, awaiting the moment I get the “all clear” and I can tell what’s going on.

So for now, I’ll just share “Counting Crows” – the poem, not the band – with you, and tell you to tune in again. The big news release should come any day now!!!!


…ah! New Year’s Resolution: drink less… and quit smoking… and quit talking nonsense to total strangers… hehe… ahh…

Mark Darcy:
Yes. Well. Perhaps it’s time to eat.


Y’all know I love Bridget Jones. In fact, my darling muse Bridgie was named in her honor. I see a lot of myself in my younger days in Bridget — especially the unfortunate attempts at karaoke, the inability to filter my thoughts before they leave my mouth, and the eternally ill-fated attempts at self-improvement. (The relationship with Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth — unfortunately, not so much.)

Like Ms. Jones, I love to make a New Year’s Resolution. Or several. Every late December finds me weighing the desirability of various goals. Weight loss. Clean eating. Less wine. Strict writing goals. Organization. Oh, Lord, I have dozens of things I want to get started on.

Problem is, like Bridget, I’m a lot better at getting started than I am at succeeding. I have to admit that, barring illness, the odds are slight that I’ll be zipping up size 4 jeans this year. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, especially after a 12-hour stint at the dayjob, when chips and bean dip seem to be my very best friend in the world.

But I will brag on myself and my history with resolutions just a bit. A couple of years ago, I decided that I would write a book. And by God, I did it. And after that, I decided that I would continue to write, with a daily goal of a pre-determined word count. And I have done that, too, at least 80% of the time.

So I’ve figured out that I can keep a resolution. But it has to be something very concrete and measurable, with a tangible end result. And, so far at least, it has to be something other than getting skinny. But I’ll take whatever successes I can.

In that spirit, I make the following resolutions for 2013:

1. Write my quota daily.
2. Blog no less than three times per week.
3. Finish my two current WIPS.

That’s it. I think — heck, I know — I can do this. I’ll report in occasionally to let y’all know how it’s going. And well, perhaps it’s time to eat.

Monday Muse: The Only Writing Advice There Is

As always, on Mondays I try to get the week off to a good, productive start by discussing ways I’ve found to encourage, bribe, or outright trick Bridget, my muse, into knuckling down to work. Bridget, like most muses, is temperamental, lazy, and prone to pouting. (Yes, Bridgie, you are. Now tuck your bottom lip back in and stick with me.)
As indicated in a recent quote from Maya Angelou on this blog, even the finest of authors have trouble kickstarting their muse. (No, I don’t mean actually kicking you, Bridget. Although I will if you keep this up.) But, all tips and tricks aside, there is one thing you have to do to get muses to wake up and get going. I’ll share that secret with you, but I’m gonna tell you flat out, you aren’t going to like it.
Cause the sad truth is, it isn’t a secret. There is one absolute sine qua non* for Muse management, and we all know what it is. It’s kind of the literary equivalent of “how to lose weight.”
The sad truth is, losing weight takes eating less and exercising more. End of story. Of course, the tips and tricks are all designed to get you to do that. But boiled down to its essence, it isn’t a secret. We all know what to do.
Same with writing. Here’s the magic formula — B.I.T.C.H.O.K.
Of course, you know what that stands for: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. No deep dark secret, no surprises. If you want to write, sit your butt in your chair, put your hands on the keyboard, and write.
Researching isn’t writing. Networking with other writers isn’t writing. For God’s sake, surfing the net for inspiration isn’t writing. Writing is writing.
And if you force yourself to do that, every day, for however long it takes, sooner or later your muse will figure out that you mean business, and she will show up. To show you who is the boss, she will sometimes show up without a single good idea, but eventually she will decide that she might as well get on with it. And then, the two of you will be working as a team, and you will write.
In order to make darling Bridgie get serious, I have a commitment. Every day, without fail, I will write 100 words on my WIP.
Now, yes, that seems like very little. That’s the whole point. Between the day job, and the family, and the friends, and the frenemies, and everything else, there are some days I look at my keyboard and want to simply puke. I can’t think of anything more distasteful than writing. But, as dear Dorothy Parker put it, while I don’t always like writing, I LOVE having written.
Its the starting that is hard. Once I make myself sit and do my hundred, I often find that Bridgie and I will keep on. We’ll do several hundred, if not thousands. But if I ever tell myself I have to write a thousand, Bridgie and I will just stamp our little feet like Shirley Temple and refuse.
I was doing pretty well with the hundred word challenge for a few weeks. Then, as is all too common with my bipolar self, I let my mood distract me. I went several days without writing, and Bridget took herself off to parts unknown.
When I finally sat myself down and made myself write, it was hard. Bridgie wanted to stay on vacation. But I think over the past few days, I have convinced her that we are going to either write 100 words of crap or 100+ words of something good every day. And since Bridget is pretty cocky about her writing skills, she has decided to go for good stuff instead of crap.
Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. The only real writing advice there is.

*Oh, yes, Ro’mama can sling Latin with the best of them. Had to get something out of that expensive law school education.

Muse Monday: What Ms. Maya Said

Yes. I know it’s actually Tuesday. So sue me. (I’m a lawyer in the day job, and buddy, you DO NOT want to face me in court.)
But I digress. If you, like any sane and rational person, think that Maya Angelou is simply one of the best writers and all around fabulous people in the world, enjoy this advice from her on tempting the muse:

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”

If you don’t think Ms. Maya is all that plus the bag of chips, there is nothing I can do for you. Go enjoy Keeping up with the Kardashians and leave the grown ups alone.


Monday Muse: Time for a Reality check

This pretty much sums it up.


Monday Muse: Where Do You Get Those Ideas?

If there is one question every writer hears, it is “Where do you get those ideas?” And if there is any question most of us really can’t answer, it would be that one. Where do the stories come from? Heck if I know. And truthfully, if I did know, I’d check in there a lot more often, because I constantly need fresh ideas.

But Bridget, my darling muse, found a quote this weekend that she told me to share with you all. And as you know, if Bridget says “jump,” my only response is “how high you want that, love?” Because keeping my muse happy and productive is the most important part of writing — I can’t afford to tick her off.

So here’s what Orson Scott Card says about ideas for writing: “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

It’s not that there is any strange trick to finding inspiration. The only thing you have to do is open your eyes, see what’s around you, and start playing with the possibilities. That’s all. And for most of us, most of the time, that simple task is just about impossible. Coming up with ideas means taking something that is so familiar you don’t even notice it anymore, and giving it a twist (or several) and then telling what would happen.

As in, “what if a kid got an admissions letter from a wizarding school?” “What if a spoiled Southern belle had to fight to keep her family fed?” “What if a young bride feels haunted by everyone’s memories of her husband’s first wife?” “What if a government required teenagers to fight to the death for public amusement?”

Once you get the “what if” in your mind, your muse can take it and run — Bridget is fabulous at giving the answers. It’s finding that initial question that stumps her.

I’m trying to develop my ability to look at the world around me with my “what if” glasses on. What if a lawyer got stuck in the elevator on her way to work one morning? What if a business meeting suddenly becomes a fight for survival? What if a teenager found a bag with $50,000 in it on the way to school?

None of these really crank Bridget’s tractor, but that’s the process. Hopefully, I can recognize one or two of the thousands of ideas I pass today, and make it into a story.