Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Ambiance Travel

Somehow I thought Mondays would become extinct in the new year. No such luck.


I couldn’t find a quote that expressed my point accurately so I made my own. ūüôā

We would all love to go and write wherever inspires us, both in general and for specific works. Maybe you’re writing something that requires a dark atmosphere, or maybe your piece takes place on the beach and the sound of¬†ocean waves would make a difference to your descriptive powers. Maybe you’re dying to visit a fantasy world and write there for a while. Even if your ideal surroundings are nearby, you can’t always be where you want to when you want to.

Enter YouTube!

I recently found some videos that have been making a big difference in my writing motivation. Sleep Ambient HD is technically meant to help you relax and sleep, but take a look at the images, especially the moving ones, and listen to all the great sounds that would come naturally in each place. Have a video up on your computer full screen while you write in your notebook, or put your Word/Pages/Scrivener doc next to your chosen scene. Hear the sounds of the area and see it while you write. I’m¬†loving the ability to feel like I’m in these places while I sit in the comfort of my own home. I like the autumn bridge video,¬†the forgotten shipwreck, the clear Caribbean ocean, and this¬†entire playlist, particularly gentle balcony rain. I like them all, but these are especially useful for me right now.

If you want to sit by the fire, Virtual Fireplace has loads of fires in different atmospheres. I’m in love with this pub fireplace scene, I’m using this very soft crackling fireplace a lot, or how about the Green Dragon Inn from The Hobbit?

Speaking of fantasy, the channel ASMR Rooms lets you spend time in Harry Potter settings! Spend time at¬†Hagrid’s place, the Gryffindor common room¬†(or Slytherin for that matter), or in the Great Hall…at Christmas!

Pair any of these videos and their ambient sounds with music you love and you’ll experience a kind of inspiration you’ve never felt before.

There are tons of channels that make¬†these kinds of videos and I’m so happy they do. I feel like I can spend time in whole other worlds whenever I want. There are so many times I don’t have time to go somewhere or I’m not able to, whether physically, monetarily, time wise, or because it¬†doesn’t exist in real life. Now there are no limitations to where I can go and get inspired for my writing. Even if I want¬†that coffee shop vibe at 1 a.m. on a Wednesday, I can have it.¬†Just press “play”.

The Music Behind Anatomy of a Darkened Heart

Music plays a huge part in my writing, especially to set the ambiance. There’s no better way for me to stop thinking about other responsibilities and get in the mindset to write. Music wipes my brain clean of everything else and lets me focus on creativity. There are a few specific songs that helped me write¬†Anatomy of a Darkened Heart when I had a hard time concentrating. That’s the most frustrating thing for me, by the way – when I want to write but I’m too distracted. Or if I’m in the wrong mood for the piece I’m working on.

Let me introduce you to some music that helped put the “dark” in “darkened heart”. It’s all from the CD (yes, I own some CDs!) Funeral Music, which isn’t a spoiler. It’s just sufficiently tragic to suit the ambiance I needed in order to write AoDH properly.

  1. Mozart’s Masonic funeral music
    • I consider this as close to a theme song as it gets. I listened to this song quite a lot during the writing of AoDH, and although it has a little bit too light of a feel in some sections, much of it tells of a complicated setting with ups and downs that suit the story. The smoothness of its transitions also struck me as appropriate for AoDH.
  2. Mozart’s Requiem: Intro√ĮtDSC_0003
    • Innocence and dynamism all at once. There’s a lot of delicate beauty and brooding to this piece that sounds a lot like internal turmoil. The uncertain ending makes it especially relevant.
  3. Mozart’s Requiem: Lacrimosa
    • Again delicate, but in a ready-to-break kind of way, like watching the beauty of light glinting off falling glass. Doom is imminent and yet it’s too lovely too look away.
  4. Bach’s Concerto for 2 violins in D minor: II Largo
    • This sounds exactly like proper Victorian etiquette to me, but I also love the idea of something wicked hidden underneath the layers. Everything is so¬†beautiful and¬†“stiff” in that Victorian way (in my mind), and seeing that shell of good manners, the layer that everyone on the outside might see, inspired the ideas behind Abigail’s and Elizabeth’s minimal and manipulative attempts to fit into society for their purposes. I picture a¬†beautiful Victorian house and steadily¬†rotting insides that no one realizes is quite as bad as it is.
  5. Grieg’s Peer Gynt: The death of √Öse
    • The sheer building sadness and drama of this music heavily drove¬†the middle of the book as well as Abigail’s relationship with her mother in general. Actually, Abigail’s whole existence could really be defined by this theme.
  6. Bach’s St. John Passion: “Ruht wohl”
    • Another solidly stiff piece that I feel represents the Victorian period well. I see a lot of outwardly hidden emotions when I listen to this one, a very controlled piece of music, much like most of the characters in AoDH.
  7. Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater: Stabat Mater Dolorosa
    • There’s tradition in some of the chords and refrains in this piece. Also the feel of tragedy blends with voices and instruments that are almost indistinguishable at times. So many things can blend together if we’re not careful… Another theme in¬†AoDH.

The second book in the Dark Victoriana Collection,¬†Locke and Keye, is inspired by some of the same music, but for different reasons, and definitely not¬†all the same music. There are additional pieces I’m listening to from this album that are more appropriate, and my vision changes completely for the pieces that do match AoDH’s inspiration.

Finding the perfect music to accompany my writing can be frustrating at first, but in the end it’s extremely satisfying to play something that slips me right into the necessary mood. It’s a good thing I don’t easily get sick of playing the same songs repeatedly!

Brutal Doom = Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

One of my favorite video games now has three number 2’s associated with it: today Doom 2 is 22 years old. I think that calls for a post!

Doom is a classic video game with many versions, and Doom 2 is my favorite iteration.

The first first-person shooter game I ever learned, I still love it, and now they have BRUTAL DOOM, a version more bloody with updated, more fluid controls, new fatalities, better weapons, and heavily updated graphics. It keeps the feel of the original and brings it into the 21st century.

Why am I telling you about this transition from 1990s cutting edge computer game to revamped and updated classic video game (with many versions in between)? Because it’s something happening constantly with books today. Take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

This classic book has had many rebirths as films and through alternate tellings, including the strangely popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

This is a prime example of taking something people already love and giving it a spin that’s very popular today. I remember when everyone was joking about¬†Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it became a bestseller and will be a film in 2016.

My point is that¬†you never know what will inspire you to write, to imagine. And you never knowFeatured Image -- 1269 what piece of creativity is going to hit the mark with your audience. I’ve read historical fiction books for a long time, but I literally (and I mean that in the literal sense) never thought I would write historical fiction. My exact thoughts:¬†I could never write historical fiction, it’s too complicated. Way too much research. And yet here I am. My first published book is historical fiction, and not only that, I enjoyed writing all the tiny historical details from life in the 1800s. I mean…wow. I went from “never ever” and “impossible” to having a 5-year publishing plan based almost entirely on dark historical fiction writing.

This should teach you one thing: never feel silly for hanging onto a kids’ book or playing an outdated video game. You just don’t know how it will positively affect your present – or your future.


Photographic Writing Prompts for Paranoid Characters

Pictures to put you in the mood for writing scenes of paranoia and fear.



the clock


Time erodes our lives like fear erodes our confidence.


who's there


Please don’t turn, please don’t turn…


between the shades


Lace curtains can’t disguise bad intentions, but they can distract from the voyeur watching you.




Is someone out there?




“Dolly, look…”




“They told me that¬†house was abandoned. I’m not so sure.”




The windows are closed, but the things we fear remain inside…with us.


what lies beneath


“I thought I felt something tug at my leg under the table…”



I hope you enjoyed this series of pictures and prompts. Leave your own captions in the comments below!

Picture Tour through a Victorian Weekend Getaway House!

I promised in my Characters’ Psychologies video that I’d show you the Victorian house I’m staying in, so here are some great inspirational highlights from it. Hope they inspire you too!

Victorian house bedroom

Let’s start in¬†the beautiful bedroom I’m sleeping in. Maroon walls, pink bed covers and pillows, and a chest with a story to tell. Ideal for me!

bedside lamp

The lamp at my bedside is perfect for reading. Each milk glass section lights individually and together to give you exactly the amount of light you want. The ambient lighting is also great for late-night writing in a notebook.

bedroom chest view


Damaged chest, perfect bed. Stories are in the making!


mirror and bureau


Little corner of cute.


glass doorknob


The beautiful glass doorknob and lock on my door.


hallway light


Let’s move out to the hallway. At night, this is the lamp that just barely lights the hallway.


blue flowers


My mom’s room is more of a beach theme (the place we’re staying is by the beach), so it’s a white and blue room. The owners of the house put these lovely blue and white flowers in her room as a finishing touch. I just think they’re so pretty!


blue room glass doorknob


Blue room glass doorknob. I love the contrast of colors.


child's view


A child’s view of the same doorknob. The slightly open door suggests a lot of possibilities to me. I also think the light blue on white seems very innocent.


damaged chest


Back to my room for a minute. I love this damaged chest so much!




The paint is chipped away but the secrets remain intact.


darkened light


There is always light in the darkness.




Writer as photographer.




Let’s go downstairs.




Mirror mirror…


This regal lion oversees the family room. He tops off a piece of furniture called a hall tree¬†that acts as a chair, a mirror, and a coat hanger. It’s seriously unique.


carving detail


Beautiful carving details on the same piece of furniture as the lion.




The dining room is always dim, and at night this light casts an eerie glow over the wooden dining room table.







And for the finale, something dramatic.

I hope you enjoyed this tour! This place keeps my motivation and productivity high. Do you have a place that does that same for you?