13 ways to goose the muse

1. Coffee. Or you could just eat chocolate-covered coffee beans by the handful. Not that I’ve done that. Much.
2. Write a poem. Poetry reminds you of the beauty and power of language and structure. Guaranteed to limber up your prose and make you look at that paragraph with new eyes. Doesn’t have to be serious, limericks work fine.
3. Write fan-fiction. Hey, it worked for Meljean. And Ellen’s using it to get back in her groove. Playing around in somebody else’s world for the pure non-publishable fun of it can really loosen a writer up.
4. Write non-fiction. An article or essay, something completely different. Or if you’re an article or essay writer, write a technical piece.
5. Write a short story. A short-short can be 500-1500 words and give you a great opportunity to experiment with form, POV, genre, mood, tone, you name it.
6. Pick one element of fiction and write a one-page piece focusing on that. Dialog, description, whatever.
7. Write a parody. Take a well-known piece and change up the nouns, verbs, etc. So much fun.
8. Write a mood piece. Describe a picture to set a happy mood. Rewrite to make it sad. Or scary. Your choice of words determines what emotions you evoke.
9. Write a scene in one POV. Rewrite in another character’s POV. (If your scene only has one character on-stage for that scene, you may have to get really creative.)
10. Read the dictionary. Language again. It’s a basic tool.
11. Read the encyclopedia. So many facts! And you never know what will make you go, ‘Hey, what if…’
12. Read outside your normal lines. If you read mostly romance, pick up YA or a biography. If you read mainly nonfiction, try a popular novel in any genre. And so on.
13. Make it a habit to write every day at approximately the same time. If you show up faithfully, the muse will start showing up, too.

Bookclub, contest, and heat ratings

Wild Wild West’s discussion questions are up at the Cherry Forum’s Bookclub, discussion opening Nov. 15. Currently the bookclub is discussing the fabulous Cathy Mulvaney’s Something Wicked. Cathy is a smart and innovative author and a tough act to follow. I’ll have to tapdance a lot.

The Wicked Writers Halloween Contest is underway with a trick or treat bag of fabulous prizes! Join Wicked Writers and answer a few questions (answers found on author websites) to win lots of Wicked reading.

Finally, I am pondering heat ratings. TwoLips reviewed Ellora’s Cavemen Seasons of Seduction III and rated us 4.5 Kisses and a Red Hot Chili Pepper. This is, interestingly, the same heat rating they gave Yule Be Mine, which is published under the Ellora’s Cave mainstream imprint as hot but not erotic. Catalyst, under the same imprint, has also been listed as erotic by reviewers. And Miss Lonely Hearts, just released, isn’t listed as Red Hot, although it has multiple explicit sex scenes that include bondage (handcuffs) and the use of sex toys. So…how helpful are heat ratings?

In my own opinion, all of my books are erotic romances. Some have more explicit language than others, some have more, um, innovative elements, but all of them are what I consider erotic; nothing below the heat level you’d find in a Blaze or Brava. And yet they are labeled everything from “romance” to “erotica”. I think it’s the kind of thing that by its nature is hard to define.

Of course, I think everybody should read Miss Lonely Hearts and come back to discuss whether or not it’s an erotic romance. :mrgreen: 😉

Happy Halloween! If you’re going out tonight, stay safe and warm.

Miss Lonely Hearts is out!

Love, larceny and lies…plus hot sex with handcuffs!

Miss Lonely Hearts

When is a love letter not a love letter? When it’s mail fraud. Or in this case, female fraud.

Jason Alexander is one angry Alaskan, and he’s out to get his woman; the letter-writing Lolita who’s running the Miss Lonely Hearts con game in his bailiwick. She’s taking lonely Alaskans for a roller-coaster ride and cashing in on love. When she hits his adopted home, the patrons of his bar The Last Resort, the retired gambler takes it personally and goes out for justice.

Cassandra Adams has just been dumped by ex-fiancé number two. She’s fed up with Romance Roulette and ready to trade her rosy daydreams for hardheaded practicality. The logical solution? She’s going to search the classifieds for the mail-order marrying man she wants.

She thinks she’s found him in Jason, alias Alex Sanders. He thinks he’s hooked Miss Lonely Hearts. And the regulars at The Last Resort think it’s high time Jason got married, so they’re not about to clarify matters when they discover his mistake.

Together Jason and Cassandra will have to cut their way through the tangle of love, larceny and lies to unmask Miss Lonely Hearts and find a happy ending that’s a sure bet.

Available now at Samhain!

Poetry Monday Spookfest

OK, I tried to come up with a spooky Halloween poem and apparently I have used up all my brain cells with Real Work (TM). So you get this spooky story from the dark corner of my hard drive that answers the question all writers get asked: Where do you get your ideas? *cue spooky music*

The Place Stories Come From
copyright 2007 Charlene Teglia

I found Ross standing by the window in his living room that overlooked the city. It was night, and the view from the height of his penthouse revealed a sweeping city nightscape of earthbound red comets trailing rushing automobiles in their linear city-block orbits. Manhattan’s stars twinkled on Broadway; the celestial ones weren’t visible. Ross stood with his back to me, looking down over the city, hands stuffed in the rear pockets of his neatly tailored trousers.

He didn’t look as happy as I had expected; as anyone might reasonably expect. Here was a man surrounded by the outward trappings of success who had just attained the highest professional recognition for his work. He was no starving artist; his luxury penthouse was a far cry from a dusty garret. Well, it surprised me, and something in his stance made me hesitate to approach him.

I stood there, too far in to back away, caught in the atmosphere enough to sense the uncertainty of his mood; there weren’t any lights on, and that decided me. I shook off the strange mood and switched on the lights.

“Ross! Tell me you’re thinking through a new plot,” I said in deliberately cheerful voice. “I just came to tell you that the reviews of your last novel are full of praise, and The New Yorker wants a short story.”

These are words an agent expects a client to greet with some enthusiasm.

Not so Ross.

“Splendid,” he says in a sepulchral tone, hunching deeper into himself.

“You sound like I just told you the book bombed and no reputable publisher ever wants anything to do with you again.”

“It would be better news,” Ross tells me in a very quiet voice.

I realize he’s serious.

I try to laugh it off, anyway. “What’s this? Don’t tell me you have writer’s block and can’t find a new story?” I’m halfway serious, and thinking that maybe I can stall The New Yorker long enough for Ross to get over his slump, or maybe I can interest them in another client. I like Ross, but agents have to eat, too.

“No,” Ross murmurs, with a smile that doesn’t reassure me. “I know where to find a new story.”

I don’t like the way he says it. Suddenly I think the place needs more lights and maybe he should think about track lighting. I’m halfway to suggesting it when he turns to me.

“I can show it to you, Richard,” he says. There’s a sad and almost desperate sound to his voice and a light of madness in his dark eyes that alarms me. Ross has always been polite and genial in all our dealings, but there’s something about him tonight. For some reason I can’t even name, I’m more than half afraid of him and nearly ready to forget The New Yorker and my fifteen percent.

“Would you like to see it, Richard?” He is smiling as he walks towards me. “The place where stories come from?”

“No, no, that’s all right,” I tell him, resisting the urge to back away. “Look, if you need to work in more privacy, maybe there’s a writer’s retreat you’d like me to check out for you.”

I’m reasonable. Friendly. Just-being-your-helpful-agent,-Ross, don’t-throw-me-from-the-observation-platform kind of manner. I’m thinking the last book-signing tour might have been too much stress.

“No, Richard,” Ross says, advancing relentlessly. “I want you to see this. Come with me.”

So? I go with him. What would you have done? Maybe he’s cracked up, maybe he’s just going through a dry spell. Maybe he’s ticked off about the fifteen percent and wants to renegotiate. Whatever, he’s Tyler Ross, and worth a little humoring. Fifteen percent of six figures is nothing to sneeze at. So I go with him, and I’ve been sorry ever since.

I grew up in Utah, which might not mean much to you, but it’s Mormon country and dry as the dessert. So maybe it’ll mean something if you understand that first, and then I tell you that I’ve become a drinker after this night with Ross.

It doesn’t make any difference, though; I can’t get it out of my head, that night that Ross showed me The Place Where Stories Come From.

Ross is still smiling his crazy smile and generally doing a good job of giving me the chills as he guides me to a door I don’t remember being there. It looks like an emergency exit, maybe. It’s a big steel door set in a firewall on the far side of the penthouse.

Maybe it’s the required second exit for a residence, I think, or maybe it’s Ross’ private door to the stairs. I don’t realize I’m grasping for rational explanations in the face of something I don’t understand. I think primitive man confronted with an astronaut in a rocket ship would have shied away in the same instinctive manner, telling himself it was a strange kind of pterodactyl or something like that. It’s a frail defense mechanism, but it serves to preserve sanity in most cases.

So I tell myself that there really isn’t a doorway to The Place Where Stories Come From even while Ross leads me to it and opens it.

“Jesus, Ross!” Behind the door, the place is an inferno. The heat wave rocks me back on my feet. I smell sulfur and start to cough.

“This is it, Richard,” Tyler Ross says as if we aren’t both hallucinating, which has to be the case. “This is the place. You want a story? All you have to do is walk through that door and get one.”

“Jesus, Ross.”

“Just walk through,” he repeats. “It’s so simple. So easy. Anyone can do it, Richard. You just walk through the door.”

But I can’t do it, I think. I want to scream, but I can’t. I want to run, but I’m frozen in place. I can’t go in there, to The Place Where Stories Come From. I don’t know how anyone can.

“So easy,” he says softly, almost tenderly. He steps through before I know what he’s going to do, and turns back to me, smiling that crazy smile at me through the flames.

“Jesus Christ, Ross, what are you doing? Get back here!” I scream.

“What’s the matter, Richard? Did you change your mind? Don’t you want a story?”

“Not like this!”

He laughs, then. “Where did you think they came from, Richard? Did you think there wasn’t a price?”

I go cold inside. “What are you saying?”

“They’re in here, Richard. They’re all in here. All the stories and all the dreams of humanity, in here for anyone to take.” I can still see him through the flames, and he’s not laughing now. “But there’s a price. Anyone can come in and take any story; but they can’t take it out into the world with them unless they leave something behind.”

I think of old ghost stories, the kind of tale whispered around a campfire or from cot to cot in the cabin when the lights are off, late at night. I think of pacts with the devil signed in blood. You hear rumors of that kind of thing; gossip, like, Van Halen made a deal with the devil. Tyler Ross sold his soul, I think, imagining the tabloid headlines.

I can’t speak, can’t say anything, can only stare at Ross in horror, and he sees it. He smiles.

“That’s right,” he says. “I can’t take anything out unless I pay. Everything has a price, Richard. It’s economics. I can take the story you want out of here with me.”

I know what he’s going to say next, try to stop him, try to tell him that I don’t want it, but at the same time I think of The New Yorker and fifteen percent and he knows it.

“All I have to do, Richard,” says Ross, “is leave another piece of my soul in here to pay for it.”

I want to run away from there, far away from The Place Where Stories Come From and Tyler Ross and New York City. I want to scream. I want to believe that none of this is happening because as long as it isn’t real, there aren’t any monsters or demons, that place doesn’t exist, and I didn’t really stand there and watch him do it.

I suppose you saw the byline in The New Yorker. That story won a Nebula and earned Ross a mint in reprints and anthology rights, and I collected my agent’s percentage.

Maybe you wouldn’t have.

Maybe you wonder how I can live with it.

Like I said, I’ve become a drinker since that night. Mostly I try not to think about it, and when something happens to remind me, I tell myself it was a lucid dream, a hallucination, swamp gas, you name it; things like that don’t really happen, right?

I try not to think about it, but I can’t get it out of my head. I keep seeing Ross through that wall of fire in The Place Where Stories Come From. I keep wondering how many times he’s been in there. And yes, God help me, I wonder how many more times he can afford to go back.

I got a phone call from Esquire this morning…