Tag Archives: 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 http://www.colourlovers.com, 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.

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

Tunesday: The Reason


I’ve been working like a madwoman on my WIP. I’ve got a hero and heroine who are a bit older than Cassie and Mac in my previous book.

Emory and Gary are both a little more experienced in the world, and both of them have learned the hard way that dreams don’t always come true, no matter how hard you try. Both of them have given up, in different ways, and they find in each other a reason to try again.

I’ve always liked Hoobastank’s The Reason, but since I’ve been writing Emory and Gary, I find myself singing it incessantly (to my teenage daughter’s delight, NOT).

Anyway, don’t we all want to find that person who gives us a reason to try again, a reason to be better than we’ve ever been before? Here’s The Reason by Ernie Parada, as made popular by Hoobastank.*

I’m not a perfect person
There’s many things I wish I didn’t do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you

I’m sorry that I hurt you
It’s something I must live with everyday
And all the pain I put you through
I wish I could take it all away
And be the one who catches all your tears
That’s why I need you to hear


And the reason is you
And the reason is you
And the reason is you

I’m not a perfect person
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know


I’ve found a reason to show
A side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do
And the reason is you

Lyrics powered by LyricFind
written by PARADA, ERNIE
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

*which is a great name, btw.

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.

Monday Muse: Everyday I’m Stumblin’

Writing, like eel-wrangling, is a slippery business. You get in there with the best of intentions, and before you know it, everything is wriggling off in all directions.

What, you didn’t know Ro’mama had extensive eel-wrangling experience? My darlings, the things I have in my past would fill several books. At least, I hope they will, since I am mining my ill-spent youth for the Southern humorous women’s fiction I am currently writing.

So, yes, having grown up next door to my Grandma’s fish bait store, I have some experience with eels. You will be able to read all about eels, catwaba worms, and feral cats in my new WIP, tentatively titled HOOK, LINE AND SINKER.

But why is writing like herding eels? Because every time I sit down to get my butt in the actual chair and my hands on the keyboard, I start dithering. Proscrastinating. Mentally wandering.

And the problem is, a certain amount of that is necessary for writing. You have to daydream, to visualize your characters in their scenes. You have to research the little facts that will set the accuracy police on your trail. (When DOES one harvest catawba worms in NW Florida?) YOu have to do a lot of staring out into space as you hunt for just the right word to get the nuance your character needs.

But from there, it is a straight shot down the slippery slope to surfing the web for LOLCats and cute shoes, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent 4 hours and 17 minutes on Pinterest and haven’t written a syllable.

So I am a bit reluctant to share today’s little morsel of Muse fuel — it can do wonderful things for your creativity, but like crack cocaine or hot Krispy Kreme donuts, you have to know when to say when.

I’m talking StumbleUpon. It’s a nifty litte app that lets you create an account & enter your interests, and then it will feed you a steady diet of internet stuff you will like. As you vote yes or no on the pages it gives you, it refines its understanding of your tastes — mine now knows me better than my DH of 28 years!

I told it I like humor, Southern, fashion, writing, and a few other topics, and now all I have to do is hit my stumble button and something funny, Southern-fried, fashionable or literary (or a combination thereof) pops right onto my screen. I started with it on the laptop, but there is an iphone app so you can stumble on the fly, too.

Now, a word of warning: be careful with StumbleUpon. You really can lose yourself in it. But I use it to feed my dear Muse, Bridget, as follows:

Set yourself a time limit or word count that you will achieve. Hit stumble. Now, whatever comes up, write about it til you hit your goal. I use it in conjunction with Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die, and force myself to be creative.

Since StumbleUpon knows what you like, you will get a topic you are interested in. If it’s too hard to write about the first thing that comes up, you can vary the rules slightly and give yourself choice of 3. But no more than that, or you are on the road to websurfing damnation.

Try stumbling a bit, and let me know what you think! Bridget loves it almost as much as she loves tortilla chips and guacamole.

Interest in Pinterest?

If there is one thing Ol’ RomanceMama is always on board for, it is wasting time. Many would say that I have taken concept of timewasting to an art form, but I beg to differ. At least for the most part. You see, what looks — and often feels — like wasting time is really nothing more nor less than good ol’ Muse Nourishment.

Sometimes your Muse just needs a bit of free time, so she can wander lazily through the garden, sniffing a fragrant blossom here, rooting out a weed or two there. Gardening, in this metaphysical sense, is the best thing your muse can do to recharge her little creative batteries.

Which, my darlings, leads us to the subject of the day — the latest, and to my mind, greatest, of the social networks: PINTEREST.

Now, you may be kind of like I was with twitter — I didn’t know anything about it, but I knew I didn’t need it. A total timesuck, I called it. A cheap and shoddy replication of Facebook, with less content. Yeah, well, I was wrong about that, wasn’t I? So when faced with trying Pinterest, I gave in gracefully and gave it a shot.

Kiddos, I am here to tell you — if you, like me, are one of those visual type people to get inspiration from images, run — don’t walk — to the nearest computer and open yourself up a pinterest account.

What is it, you ask? Well, remember that bulletin board you had over your bed when you were in high school? Take that, network it with all your friends’ bulletin boards, and give it the ability to instantly download images from the entire World Wide Web. In short, it is a corkboard on speed, with none of the morning-after trembles.

I have filled my Pinterest boards with pix of the hot British actors upon whom my heroes are based, lovely historical fashions and decor to flesh out the worlds they inhabit, and a heaping helping of snarky quotes and sayings, just because I am the world’s biggest fan of snarkiness. And not only that, all the people I follow on Pinterest pin the same kind of wonderful stuff on their boards, so I can browse through it at my leisure.

When poor Bridget, my muse, starts feeling like her creative well has run dry, I give her a few minutes to play in the Pinterest garden. Yes, I have to limit it — too much of anything, despite what Mae West said, can be a problem.

But with a judicious use of Pinterest, Bridget starts running on all her creative cylinders, and a happy, productive muse means the daily word count stays where it ought to be.

So, y’all wander over to Pinterest and check it out. I’m on there as Arabella Stokes — if you like attractive British actors, pretty period costumes and sarcastic humor, follow me. And if you don’t like them, why are you reading my blog in the first place????