I know that some authors keep very detailed outlines about the books they are writing. I have never had the patience or inclination to do that (and, yes, that sometimes means I have to go back to see what the brother's friend's name was!)
One technique I have always used for inspiration is to compile a collage of pictures that fit the book I'm writing and make them my rotating screen saver during the course of writing that book. For instance, the pictures above represent Rafe Vincennes' NASCAR and the Vincennes family's chateau on the Eastern Shore, Heron Point (the Rafe Vincennes series), Cole McCarren's Ireland (Sticks and Carrots), Shea's wild horses (Eureka Spills), Magic's friend, the Lynx, Creed (Magic Creek), the Sicilian stiletto used by Luca (Refuge in the Atchafalaya) and the man who looks as I imagine Ethan (How To Build a Killer).
The various groups of photos include Magic's cabin, Magic herself on her moon-silver pony and her lover, Waban, the trading post. In the Refuge in the Atchafalaya group, there are pictures of the French Quarter in New Orleans and a gypsy caravan and the mountains of Romania and street scenes in Brooklyn and Luca's antique bed (formerly owned by an infamous madame). I have photos of Rafe's Belgian Shepherd and Shea's pit bull, the cliff house above the sea in Italy where Cole and Lency spent a vacation and the prison where Ethan was incarcerated. And on to each book.
The reason for this is that if I pause in my writing to consider what should happen next or how I want to say something, the screensavers kick in and I'm immediately thrust into the place and time and with the people and animals in the book itself. I'm actually there on that flower-laden verandah with Cole and Lency relaxing in the warm Italian sun. I'm watching the freedom and majesty of wild horses streaming across the meadow. I practically hear the roar of race cars on the track. I smell the hopeless dankness of Ethan's prison cell or the spiciness of the pines that surround Shea's log house in the mountains of New Mexico.
Words are wonderful but illustrations touch another part of your creativity and help to keep the words flowing. If Shea is training dogs to herd cattle, it is easier to write about if you see those Collies and those cows in front of your eyes. If Luka is paddling down the bayou in a pirogue so that you see the still, brown water, the alligators on the bank and the herons fishing, the scene touches you in a deeper place. The man who is Ethan to me ensures that I picture him vividly. (I'm on a constant search to find the perfect Rafe, which is why I follow websites like Fifty Shades of Sexy on Facebook and go through photo after photo on Iphoto.com (sexy men section).
As I watch scenes go by that represent the book I'm writing, ideas come to me more freely than if I'm staring at a blank screen.
All writers have their own methods for jump-starting inspiration. This is one of mine. Finding the pictures adds an element of fun, especially when you discover one that is perfect. "Oh, yes," I say, "that is Luca's Creole townhouse." Visuals excite my muse. You might give it a try and see if yours responds as well.