Rose Grey muses on muses..

Musing on Muses and Why You May Not Need One

A lot of writers speak respectfully of their Muse. Me, not so much.

I’m not a believer in the concept of the muse when it comes to writing. If I had waited for a muse like Calliope to appear, I would never have written five novels. Plus, on a visceral level, I don’t trust the idea of a muse meddling in my process.

Years ago, I studied music composition with Professor Joseph Packeles. One day when we were discussing the process of composition, he told me, “If the music comes spewing out of you, that’s not healthy. You want to control the flow.”

For the most part, I have found this policy applies to writing stories as well. Because as an author of fiction, I am not a conduit for the words. I am making them up. And it’s darn hard work.

Often, applying seat of pants to seat of chair makes me whine and cuss. And sometimes even when the words come easily, the result makes me wince. Unclear. Vague. Filled with avoidance. But at least those lousy words are mine. Not Calliope’s. Or Erato’s. Or even Euturpe’s.

On the other hand, sometimes the best way to write is not to write at all.

As a teen, I worked as a gardener for a few months. It taught me patience. But more, it taught me to appreciate the value of the waiting. Because the waiting period is when the real action happens – underground, where you can’t see or hear it.

It’s a miracle that only works if you don’t meddle.

The seed needs time to crack its tough shell, to figure out which way the sun is, to convert the elements of the soil which surrounds it into fuel for growth. And it can’t do these things if it keeps getting dug up and inspected.

Gardens are about the deliciousness of waiting. Waiting for risk of frost to pass. For seeds to root. For rain to fall. And always, always waiting for the blossom to open, the fruit to appear and ripen.

One part of writing, almost before the beginning, is like this – a kind of germination of an idea. But the idea only germinates if you let it stay undisturbed in the dark for a bit. And that means waiting. Not waiting for Calliope to show up, but waiting for the idea to be ready to grow into a story.

That kind of waiting is a miracle too.

Rose Grey has written five romance novels and is hard at work on a new series. If you like free stories, subscribe to Rose’s newsletter Your subscription comes with a free sweet contemporary short, lots of fun info about upcoming books and occasional delicious recipes. The Closer You Get, All Of MeWaiting For You, Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Performance Dreams and Real Nightmares

Interpreting performance dreams. Okay, it’s not that complicated.

Performance dreams all share certain characteristics – the absolute knowledge that failure is inevitable, the horror of knowing it is your fault and having little to no control over the outcome. You know the nightmare if you have ever performed anything.

Maybe even if you haven’t.

You start up out of sleep in a panic and realize it is the familiar old dream, fitted perfectly to your fears. The trappings might be different but the bones are the same.

But when I woke up this morning I realized this particular performance dream was about writing. And that was intriguing.

Because I don’t have an employer who will be angry if I get it wrong. Well, I might give myself a stern talking to, but that usually ends with chocolate. I know perfectly well I am growing into a writer and I am willing to be patient with the process. There is no specific deadline and no one cares what I wear when I am tapping out vagaries on the keyboard. If I get it wrong, I can fix it. In this arena at least, I have control over most of the elements one panics about in performance dreams.

So this dream wasn’t about me.

It was about Jock and Charlotte and whether they are ready to be in the story I am writing about them.

I’m one quarter into writing novel number four and I’m worried for them. It’s not so much my own performance which is at stake, it is the performance of these characters. I hope I’ve honed them well, but only learning how they fare in their fictional lives will tell me for sure.

Until then, it is a matter of leaping into the unknown and seeing what happens. I guess that’s what we all do every day, but most of the time we don’t think about it. Writing make you more conscious of the leap.

At least Jock and Charlotte aren’t appearing half an hour late to headline for a medieval lute concert in Carnegie Hall wearing bathing suits and roller skates.

They should be grateful. I can’t say the same.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

avocado hand

Avocado Hand – Count Your Fingers

Cooking like an amateur and proud of it.

I know you didn’t ask, but…I find Avocado Hand annoying. Or maybe I’m just crabby. I guess if I had actually suffered from Avocado Hand, I would be more crabby. If you haven’t already heard about this “on the rise” and therefore extremely hip emergency room issue, apparently more people than ever before in recorded history are slashing their hands in an attempt to cut open and prepare avocados.

Martha Stewart, on a morning show recently, demonstrated the new FDA approved method of cutting avocados by holding the fruit in a dish towel and using a razor sharp knife both of which I consider the perfect way to create an avocado preparation injury no one has ever heard of yet. She explained it is dull knives which create Avocado Hand.

I would argue it is hubris.

I love watching professional chefs on television as much as the next person, but I have no illusions. These folks have professional training handling incredibly sharp tools at ridiculous speeds. I don’t.

I have neither the training, nor the dagger-like implements, nor the dexterity, and I know perfectly well I am not planning to spend twenty years perfecting those skills and accruing those knives. Because that is what it would take for me to be in that league.

But I think television breeds a kind of unrealistic perception in viewers that visual proximity is the same as knowledge. Watching a great chef’s hand motions and copying them, is simply not the same as practicing those motions thousands of times a day. Just as wiggling one’s fingers and owning a piano is not the same as becoming a great pianist.

It’s true most of us have fingers, but that’s not enough. And if we insist on pretending we have the same knife skills as professional chefs, we will be lucky to retain those fingers at all.


Which is particularly important if you are planning on typing the next great romance novel, instead of dictating it. So hurry up with the writing because I want to read it.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

manchester bombing

Manchester Bombing – Crime Against Children, Again,

Words fail in the wake of the Manchester Bombing.

How can we respond to the Manchester Bombing? How do we cope with the images of parents and children killed and injured, pointlessly. And it is pointless, make no mistake about that.

This atrocity will devastate the lives of the families who have lost a loved one, their friends, their relatives. For them, nothing will ever be the same again.

But on a larger scale, the most effective response is to make the terrorist’s death meaningless. The residents of Manchester will keep going to public events. Arianna Grande will continue to bless those who love her with the beauty and joy of her gift. Nothing, with the exception of greater vigilance, will change.

Because that is the weapon we have. Normalcy.

I get that. I do. And yet this is not a random attack. It was specifically aimed at children.

There is nothing which angers me in quite so deep a way as the pain evil people intentionally cause children. There is no defense, no argument, no words which can excuse it.

Nor are there appropriate words in any human language which I personally can summon to respond to it.

Still it is not simply silence which is called for when children lie dead. Not the calm silence of acceptance, not the peaceful silence of belief, but a deeper, darker silence. A silence of pulsing life, of red grief, of a roar too loud for sound, too thick for words. The essence of no but without the softness of N, without the rounded welcome of O. A mighty silence which seeps under doors, slams down city streets and shrieks across prairies. A silence which crushes mountains beneath its weight and creeps in great clouds to cover valleys.

A teeth baring, howl of silence.



Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Ritual for Home Writing Sessions

Creating a Home Writing Ritual

The space in which we write is significant and giving it sufficient gravitas sometimes requires a ritual. We all find ways to cue ourselves to get to work. Sharpen six pencils. Put loose papers in files. Go stand in front of the refrigerator and search hopefully for a brownie.

Some of those cues are the actual furniture on which we choose to write.

On top of my desk, looking down at my laptop, crouches a wooden sculpture of a cat. Whoever carved him caught the exact moment when a cat is considering jumping but has not bunched his muscles to do so.

I am lucky in my desk, although I occasionally yearn for a larger work surface. It is a high boy sort of thing with pigeon holes and a door which folds open for a work surface. I rarely close the door these days although I think I should reconsider that. Unlocking and opening the desk every time I wrote would lend a sense of occasion to writing time.

It may be that lack of ritual which makes it easier to write in the local library, at least when I am starting out a book.

Going to the library is a ritual.

It includes packing up my laptop, a bottle of water and any books which are due back. Fifteen minutes of driving and parking. Walking up the steps, circling the tables to find an empty one, setting up the laptop and settling into the chair. By the time I finish that process, I feel ready to focus.

This is a bit the way a cat prepares himself to sleep. He locates a perfect sunny spot, circles, pats the surface, kneads it, and kneads it again until he is ready to curl into a ball. Sleep is work for a cat.

So I’m thinking of creating a home ritual for beginning a writing session, a practical physical activity which would be somewhat useful, but mostly repetitive and basically pleasant. If you have already have one, please share.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

vegetable gardening

Vegetable Gardening For Non-Rabbits

I planted a garden yesterday.

Well, it wasn’t actually as simple as that. I spent weeks dithering over how big it should be and what I should plant. The most complicated part of vegetable gardening for me was figuring out which plants like to be near which other plants. Also which ones detest other plants. It was a bit like planning seating for a wedding reception when the families involved are the Montagues, the Capulets, the Jets and the Sharks.

Tomatoes like carrots, but they stunt them. Eggplant likes being near thyme, but thyme doesn’t like being near basil. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage don’t get along with some nightshade plants, like tomatoes and green peppers. But they thrive when inter-planted with lettuce. Eggplants, unlike their nightshade family cousins, seem to get along with everybody. It took index cards, spiral bound notebooks, scissors, tape and the ever amazing glue stick to finalize the seating plan.

Then I did the actual planting – Woohoo! So far it’s been two days and I have remembered to water the plants. I talk to them, and tell them supportive nurturing things. Maybe vegetable gardening is my thing. If that was all plants required for a successful harvest, I wouldn’t worry.

But I know the real danger is lurking in the dark.

Don’t let the cute ears and twitchy fluffy tails mislead you. Those sweet little rabbits you see on the lawn at night when you are taking your before bedtime stroll are like Pirates of the Caribbean but armed with teeth instead of daggers.

I’m hoping to buy them off with the strawberry plants. So if you see a rabbit with strawberry mash dripping from its long adorable whiskers, you’ll know where it has been.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Writing Means Looking Back Occasionally

Yes! Another one thousand words. Some days writing is like pulling teeth. Okay, many days writing is like pulling teeth. But once in a while, two thousand or more words just come pouring out of my fingers onto the keyboard. And that is amazing, and wonderful, and so, so exciting.

Always, as I write and rewrite and carve away all the parts of the manuscript which don’t look like an elephant, I wonder if it’s going to be any good. And those days when the writing flows are the times when I know, in my bones, I am doing the right thing.

But that did not happen today. On days like today, I remind myself to put on blinders and march forward.

Because you can’t get to a breathtaking mountain view without lots of trudging.

And you can’t get to good writing without lots of just plain writing.

I’m not sure how much that knowledge helps, however, when the mud is thick, my boots get stuck, the backpack is heavy and it starts to rain. On those days, of which there are more than any of us would like, it’s a matter of looking back.

Because it is easy to remember bad stuff. Who doesn’t quail at the mounds of revision required to whip the thing into shape. Who quivers with anticipation at the hard editing to follow? Not to mention the distinct possibility that hundreds of agents will look a the manuscript, shrug their shoulders and say, “Meh.”

It is hard to remember the glory of the mountain one is climbing when the peak is far above and hidden by trees.

So, writer, once in a while, stop trudging and turn around. Look down the trail and give yourself some credit. No matter how much further you intend to climb, no one can take away what you have already accomplished.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Color Your Calendar Day By Day

What color is today?

Some Fridays just don’t feel like Friday. Why is that? There is a thing called Grapheme-color Synesthesia which makes people associate colors with numbers, letters and even days of the week. One is white, two is red. Q might be purple with stripes and T might be a slick metallic silver.

So if you were to associate a color with Friday, what would it be? I think it is blue-green. Friday smells of fresh baked bread. It sounds like a stream in summer. It tastes like a grape.

But today didn’t taste like a grape. It tasted more like a Thursday. And that can’t be right because Thursday is the blue-purple of the sky just when the last ember of sunset disappears. It smells of rain and sounds like a fog horn. Thursday tastes like water.

Wednesday is orange, although not necessarily the fresh color of an orange peel. Maybe more like the orange-y brown of a pair of corduroys I once loved. Don’t ask. And the smell, a spice I think. Not a sweet one though. Maybe rosemary.

Tuesday is unquestionably light blue. The color of a clear sky in summer. And it smells like the lunches your mother packed for you when you were in elementary school, that indefinable scent of food which has been waiting in a paper bag, slightly smooshed by your books.

Monday is a sharp yellow color, not pleasant but certainly energizing.

It sounds like the smack of wind against the side of my house in midwinter. And it tastes like a coming snowstorm – cold, dry and acrid.

Sunday is lush, green and gold. The taste of leisure – home made scones or fresh cut watermelon.

Saturday smells of the promise of rain. It tastes like fresh apricots, the fuzzy promise of sweet answered with a burst of sharpness. And the color? That odd mixture of orange and pink which comes at sunset after a storm.

What did your day taste like?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

book review

Book Review: The Woman In Cabin 10

Sneaky Writing.

I don’t think Ruth Ware is likely to go on a cruise anytime soon. Anyone who could write such a scary story about a luxury cruise can’t possibly feel comfortable signing up for one. Which is one reason why I’m writing this book review on dry land.

I just finished reading The Woman In Cabin 10 which is totally not a romance novel although there are some minor romance elements in it. The basic story is not new. A woman goes on a cruise, in this case as a journalist reporting on the maiden voyage of a sumptuously appointed Aurora Borealis. The group of travelers is small and select.

This is an advantage from my perspective since I often have trouble keeping track of large crowds of minor characters. It’s not an issue generally with romances but in a mystery one doesn’t know which of the minor characters may actually turn out to be significant so large numbers of them is a problem.

The “stuck on a cruise ship with ominous mysteries” plot is a challenge because it is predictable. There are only so many possibilities after all.

And I thought this book review would be about that predictability.

But as it turned out, I wasn’t reading this thriller for the ending. I was reading it because of the way Ware’s character describes her evening dress: “There was a little spritz of sequined leaves across the right shoulder because you didn’t seem to be able to get away with none. Apparently the majority of ball gowns were designed by five-year-old girls armed with glitter guns, but at least this one didn’t look entirely like an explosion in a Barbie Factory.”

And her observations on the other passengers. First the men: “There was a little knot in the far corner who looked like they could survive for several weeks off their fat reserves, if we were ever shipwrecked.”

Then the women: “They all had that lean, polished look that spoke of hot Bikram yoga and a macrobiotic diet, and they didn’t look like they’d survive long if the ship went down. Maybe they could eat one of the men.”

See, this is how readers get sucked in. They taste this kind of writing and then when the scary parts come, they can’t put the book down. It’s like a steadily increasing dose of pepper in an otherwise totally delicious cake. You keep taking one more bite for the flavor and ignoring the heat until your tongue is on fire.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. A book review occurs every week or so. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Chocolate Can Heal The World

Mmmm. Chocolate medicine.

I know too much chocolate is not considered healthy. But many essential nutrients can cause harm if taken in excess. For instance, ingesting too much vitamin K can kill you. But each of us needs some vitamin K to survive. This must be true of chocolate as well. At least I dearly hope it is.

Years ago I received a box of chocolates which contained a tiny sheet of paper under the tray. The short essay in miniscule font detailed the impact of chocolate on human happiness and good health. It was a bit self serving, since an employee of the chocolate company wrote it, but that doesn’t matter.

Because ever since I have had a mental image of the cramped damp basement room in which that writer probably labors. He has a wispy gray beard and piercing eyes. He sits hunched on a high stool, cramped hand clasping his pen. The room is cold enough he can see his breath when he blows on his numb fingers. All of which sounds miserable, but every morning at ten o’clock sharp a lanky youth in a droopy cardigan knocks on his door and delivers a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Which compensates for the poor lighting, endless hours and lack of central heating. Never mind the skimpy salary.

I don’t want to say this too loudly but I’m surprised chocolate is not a controlled substance.

No surgeon general places a warning on candy bar wrappers. If you want to absorb it intravenously, or inhale cocoa powder, you can. Although who would want to? It’s so much better taken by mouth, preferably every four hours.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.