Inspiring character development with memes

A couple months ago, a friend shared on social media one of those memes where you search your name and use the first search results to make a fantasy name, etc. This meme caught my interest because you had to search:

  • [Your name] fantasy gown
  • [Your name] fantasy crown
  • [Your name] fantasy weapon

For fun, I started with my given (legal) name and came up with this collage, which I love because I’m obsessed with white lace dresses with low backs and curve-hugging forms. I’m a huge fan (otaku) of Sailor Moon so the crown of moonstones and moon-shaped filigree is just to die for, and that sword is nothing to sniff at!

Then I got curious and searched against my writing name, Belinda Kroll, which was interesting because it feels like a darker personality to me. While the dress is reminiscent of a Victorian interpretation of a medieval dress with ruffles and embroidery, the crown, with its sea shells and obsidian gems, speaks to some sort of dark sea goddess. Throw in the emerald sword hilt and again, you’ve got a persona no one should think about messing with!

And finally, I searched my heroine’s name for my gaslamp fantasy and squealed because it’s just so perfect. I love the gold military-inspired detailing in the bodice, the simple elegance of the gold diadem, and the angular shape of the sword spun up so many ideas!

All of which made me think, I should be using internet memes for inspiration more often! One reason I usually don’t do memes is because sometimes I worry this is a method for internet scammers to get information (especially the ones that ask for your middle name or birthdate). But for a character who only exists in my mind? I mean, why not?

Unrelated, I wanted to share that I’m currently cuddling my second child! Wish me luck with recovery and regaining my writing energy after everything settles into place at home. See y’all soon!

Why podcasts are saving me during “lock down”

I’ve never gotten into audio books because even with the best narrator, I lose interest or feel sleepy about 15 minutes into a listening session. This is a big reason why I never picked up podcasts, I assumed the same thing would happen.

Part of the problem was friends were suggesting podcasts that they cared about… I don’t need more politics, or reasons to get frustrated about the inequalities experienced by women and minorities, or the incomplete or biased snippets we get from audiovisual news media. I have plenty of sources for that, thanks, but I appreciate the suggestions.

However, in the last month I’ve craved a way to consume media that doesn’t require using my eyes. I sit in front of a computer for work, and ultimately for writing as well. I stumbled onto Stitcher, a free podcast streaming service, I can’t even remember how, and now realize what I’ve been missing. Many of these episodes are only 15 – 20 minutes long, which is my sweet spot, but I’ve found I can even listen to 45 minute episode because it gets my brain into a writing mode.

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Between Stitcher and adopting to plan and write my latest book, I’ve never been more mobile and nimble with my writing. The other day I went on a walk with the kid and was able to listen to a full episode and write a little over 150 words into the Notion app on my phone, then later go into my tablet and rearrange scenes, and still later go into my computer to do additional plot tidying and some deeper research.

I don’t think I would have sought out podcasts had it not been for the pandemic. We’ve been one of the families to stay at home since March since I’m a high risk individual. This means we’ve worked full time from home and provided child care as well. We’re not accepting help in order to protect me, basically. This means we’ve been catching an hour or even just 30 minutes each day to ourselves. That’s not enough time to plan and write a book, or so I thought.

I’ve felt burned out and frustrated because I wanted to write, but didn’t know how to start. The lock down started right as I was about to rejoin my writer’s group, which didn’t move to a virtual platform and I probably wouldn’t have dialed in anyway because I’m in so many video conferences for my day job. On top of the whole pandemic reality, I’ve felt insecure about the book I want to write because of the way certain media outlets have twisted the purpose and meaning behind the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve blogged about my insecurities about writing about someone who looks like me but living in a historical context… mostly because so many people don’t understand that the Black experience in America was more nuanced than “all people from Africa were slaves and no one was allowed to marry them.”

If you want to read another author’s perspective on the matter, check out G.S. Carr’s “Wielding Historical Inaccuracy Against Authors of Color.” It really made me think! Why do I not question when a book suggests a duke could marry a family-less, penniless governess? We clearly know that wouldn’t happen, just look at any of Jane Austen’s works to know that’s too much of a leap. Why do I pause when I read about an interracial relationship in the 1800s? I know they occurred whether in secret or not, and at least here in the United States, not all states had laws against interracial relationships. In fact, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia never had laws preventing interracial relationships!

But I digress. These are the podcasts that I’m following these days:  Writing Excuses and DIY MFA are both great for different reasons, but I credit both of them for strengthening my creative backbone to just try something. I just picked up but have yet to listen to The Self-Publishing Show, Writing Roots, and the Alli Self-Publishing Advice podcasts.

Tell me, is there something you’ve tried that you wouldn’t have if there were no pandemic? How is it going?

3 Movies to Rejuvinate my Writing Mojo

Every once in a while, I get into a major writing slump. I despair of ever putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for my fiction because I am convinced I am the most unfortunate waste of authorial intent ever. EVER. This feeling can last anywhere from a day, to a couple of weeks, to an entire dreaded season. Sometimes, when the sun shines on a Sunday morning I wake up and remember I have a cure for this writerly depression.

Movies. And not just any movies. Movies about writing and writers. I have three favorite movies that I watch in succession that never fail to make me feel better. No, not just better, but excited to write. Excited about life and recording it in fiction, exploring the emotions and thoughts of these people who speak to me in my dreams and daydreams.

Stranger than Fiction

Because every writer has some sort of mania about their characters. I often dream about mine, and the idea that they can actually come to life, that they are walking around separate from me in time and space and physical-ness is just fun and inspiring.

Alex and Emma

Because it’s nice to have the reminder that you know what? Sometimes your readers don’t like your original idea, or character description, or ending. Take a moment, step back, find a good beta reader, and make changes.

You’ve Got Mail

Because the soundtrack is amazing, the characters are cute, there is witty dialogue, and when the movie is over you want to be typing with emphasis at your computer as if you were writing to the person with which you are falling in love.

And as a bonus, sometimes I like to throw Music and Lyrics in there too. Because it’s goofy, it emphasizes the importance of having outside influence on your creative inception, and Drew Barrymore is adorable.

As a quick reminder, you might be interested in the promotions below.

Haunting Miss Trentwood is discounted on Kindle. And guess what, Catching the Rose is also discounted on Kindle!

The audiobook version of Haunting Miss Trentwood will be discounted from $19.95 to $5.95 (even less to members) Saturday August 25 to Sunday September 2.

The newly released behind-the-scenes chapter called The Seance from Haunting Miss Trentwood is free on Kindle today, Tuesday August 28. Please leave a review on Amazon, it would be so appreciated!

Best, Belinda

Five Ways to Recharge your Writing Space

Dear Reader,

Two weeks ago I needed to make a change about my home office. I felt as though something about my home office/guest bedroom was stifling my creativity, but I couldn’t figure out what or why.

A friend came over and wanted to show me something online, so I watched him sit at my desk. Eureka! Suddenly everything was clear. My desk had my back facing the door, something that has always made me feel uncomfortable. Watching my friend sit there highlighted how awkwardly I had arranged my home office.  Here are some tips to make your home office inspire your muse by rearranging your furniture.

Position your desk so you face the door/entrance to your office space.

The farther your desk is from the door, the better. According to feng shui practices, this is called a “commanding” position. Think of every executive’s office you’ve seen a in a movie. When you place your desk facing the entrance to your space, you are able to watch every move someone makes as they approach you. It’s a power play, and it works. If you can’t do that, or if your desk must face a wall, put art on the wall to make it “disappear,” like a pastoral scene.

Encourage natural light.

I’m a heliophile. If I don’t get sun, I become the definition of emo, and all my creative and happy thoughts leave me in a miserable pile of woe is me. You might not have the same problem, but natural light is a great way to make a space just feel better.

Face your desk toward your book shelves.

I’m assuming that if you’re a writer, you have a number of books. You read them for information and inspiration. Why wouldn’t you want to stare at them while you let your mind wander? Just looking at books inspires me to keep writing, sometimes, and when I turned my desk around to see my bookshelves and whiteboards, suddenly I was able to write a thousand words in half an hour. Try it, see what happens.

Get rid of clutter!

I still need to do this. Currently my laptop is balancing on a pile of papers precariously. When I have a clean desk, I’m much faster at writing because I have nothing to distract me. Take a day to file away papers that aren’t necessary to your current work, take a deep breath, and move on.

Rearrange often.

Keep the creative energy in your space flowing by trying to rearrange something in the room every six months. Maybe you have a plant that could move from one shelf to another. Maybe the shelf sitting behind you can go across the room. Maybe you can shift the angle of your desk from perpendicular to the wall to a 45 degree angle. Whatever it is, change something so when you enter the room next time, your senses notice the change, which could spark curiosity and excitement.

Doing these things helped me, hopefully they will help you, too. All the best,


Why I’m Writing a Ghost Story

Dear Reader,

Haunting Miss Trentwood began as an exercise to understand how my parent felt about losing both of their parents.

I researched adult (or midlife) orphans, which is such an important, and under-recognized topic. I’m certain the public library thought I was going through some deep trouble because I read every book on the topic.

I became fascinated and terrified by the idea that one day, my parents will die, and with them goes the only people in the world who have seen it all happen to me. They exist as a living record and archive of the traumatic moments in my life. They are my anchor.

I asked the questions: What happens to someone who loses both their parents? How do we continue, knowing there will never be anyone who knows us entirely? How do we keep the spirit of our parents alive?

Soon thereafter, I began dreaming about ghosts. Specifically, one ghost: the ghost of Mary’s father. I didn’t know why he was there. Mary certainly didn’t know why he was there. But we both knew his presence would forever change the plot and purpose of Haunting Miss Trentwood née Trentwood’s Orphan.

Looking back, I can see influences of Hamlet involved in the inspiration of Haunting Miss Trentwood. We so often underestimate the importance of the role our parents have in our lives, or the lack thereof if our parents are not a part of our lives. We underestimate the influence our parents have on our judgments and decisions.

This book is my attempt to understand and cope with the idea that one day, my parents will be gone, but I hope to keep their spirits alive within me. Is that crazy? Am I alone in worrying about this? Are you wondering how in the hell can I make an entertaining read about such a morbid topic?

Don’t worry, I wonder the same thing all the time. It’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m excited to face. Which, in retrospect, seems kind of weird, doesn’t it?

All the best,