Category Archives: brainstorming

Vacation Inspiration

A common question asked of writers is where we get our ideas for our stories. Some will say it’s the ‘Muse”. Others might say ideas are born from snapshots of characters who speak to us or a seed of inspiration that drops in from the aethers. Both are probably true, but as for me, I believe ideas are born from life experiences.

PJ Sharon here, coming to you fresh (or a little less than fresh) off a twelve day road trip up the West Coast. Call it a much needed and long overdue vacation, a visit to celebrate with my eldest son who just turned 33 (Holy cow! How did that happen? I turned 33 only yesterday!), or call it what it was…research. Since my last big vacation–a Mediterranean cruise with my mother-in-law back in 2011 that led me to write PIECES of LOVE, hubby and I were happy to splurge on some time away from our daily rat race.

Despite suffering the usual vacation mishaps, such as a missed flight, the dreaded airplane flu three days in with a side trip to the ER in San Rafael, and a questionable hotel stay or two, we had loads of fun and saw some amazing sights! And yes, I took copious notes and tons of pictures. I’d like to share some of my experiences and how they might serve to inspire me and my books.

The trip started in San Francisco with a lovely four day visit with my son who lives in wine country out there–the perfect backdrop for a romance novel. We did the usual touristy things like wine tasting in Napa Valley and a ride out to Bodega Bay to cruise the coast. In the city, we took a  trolley up to the cable car museum, then ate at Neptune’s on Fisherman’s Wharf, and watched street performers on the Embarcadero. GhirardelliAnd I couldn’t visit San Francisco without stopping by Ghirardelli’s.doing time in alcatraz

When a tour of Alcatraz landed me behind bars, I imagined the desperate souls who were once imprisoned behind those walls, looking out at the world beyond, the distant voices from the city by the bay a  constant reminder of an untouchable freedom.

After a sad farewell to my boy, we headed up the coast, through the rolling green and gold hills of wine country, and beyond to the Redwood Forests. I hugged some magnificent trees, connecting to their ancient life energy. Trees that have stood since the time of Christ and seen generations pass their way. I imagined a native hugging this same tree some five hundred years ago and felt the spirits deep in my soul. Massive creatures 300 feet tall and 30 feet around, whose roots interconnect with one another in a web of underground life. It sounds crazy to people who aren’t sensitive to such things (or creative enough to imagine), but in my minds eye, I see limbs that come alive and faces in every knot and outgrowth. Elementals perhaps? I can totally see this being the setting for a paranormal series, fey romance or historical Native American romance…oooh…maybe a time travel story.Hugging the grandfather treecrater lake oregon

We said goodbye to the giant Redwoods and continued our journey. Next came a detour inland to Crater Lake, Oregon–a sight not to be missed! Formed from a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, the collapse created a crater almost 2,000 feet deep. Over time, the bed filled with crystal clear rain water and centuries of ice cold snow melt. Through checks and balances of seepage and evaporation, the lake has found its way. The story possibilities boggle the mind!

Winding our way back to the coast led us to the quaint town of Florence, up through the seal caves, and along the twists and turns of route 101 until we reached Cannon Beach in norther Oregon. This was on my darling husband’s bucket list, so we splurged on a beautiful hotel room right on the Pacific coastline with Haystack Rock outside our door. Every romance includes long walks on a beach and golden sunsets, a glass of good wine, and two people who would lay down their lives for one another. I’m not sure if I could write romance if i didn’t have that in my life.

Not to be underestimated, the power of alone time is also necessary. haystack rock cannon beach. oregonWaking to the mammoth rock, a cool, dry breeze, and the sound of the Puffins nesting high up on the “haystack” shaped stone, I enjoyed my morning meditation and a much needed yoga practice before we walked around the touristy little town, admiring the glass blown art and lovely beachfront properties.

Then it was up through the small fishing village of Astoria, site of fun and famous movies such as Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. We ate yummy seafood and visited the Maritime Museum–another of hubby’s “must do’s”.

Our final stay was in my new favorite city, Seattle! An entertaining duck boat tour gave us great views of the sky line and a city tour that helped orient us for the short stay so we could decide what we wanted to see most.seattle skyline Pike Street Market Place and the famous Space Needle were highlights as was the people watching in Westlake Center.Pike street market

space needle 2

Mount St. Helens made for a fabulous day trip despite the deep bowl being shrouded in clouds the day we visited. We didn’t have to imagine what the 1981 eruption might have looked like since there were dozens of pictures taken that fateful day in May over thirty years ago. The twenty minute movie that takes you up close and personal with the destructive force of the event was surreal. Nearly every sign of life in over 200 square miles was destroyed that day, leaving a path of destruction and magma that turned the surface of the Earth to a moonlike desolation.mt. St. helens lava flow Acres of trees were flattened or swept away, the nearby Spirit Lake filling with lumber and wiping out much of the water life below. But as with all stories, there came a happy ending when life began to emerge from beneath the ground and under the snow covered mountainside. The current state of new life, growth, and natural beauty give hope for a bright future, made possible by the conservationists committed to preserving the land–a labor of true love if I’ve ever seen it.

Our final adventure occurred on our return trip home. It seemed silly to spend a three hour lay-over in the Las Vegas airport when we could take a shuttle over to the Vegas strip and have breakfast while checking out the scene.mgm 2 I’ve never been to Vegas before but did a ton of research for WESTERN DESERT, book two  in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I wished I’d been able to take this trip BEFORE I wrote the second book. It was fun to see the MGM Grand,  but somehow, I imagined the whole strip to be bigger. All the same, Google didn’t do it justice.

Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to take a road trip.

Have you ever written about a place you’ve traveled to? Where do you find your inspiration?

Powerball to the People–The Lottery Fantasy

Hey, peeps. Suze here.  medium_NE_bizarro[1]Guess what? I’m under a deadline! It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time, like riding the giant roller coaster at Six Flags. My first book is due to my editor just after Labor Day. It’s essentially finished, but I need to make another pass through and write up some recipes before I let it go. I’ll keep you updated about Rest In Greece, Book 1 of the Greek to Me Mysteries (at least that’s what they’re called now).

So yesterday I stopped at a local convenience store and bought a Powerball ticket. I know, I know. Waste of money, some of you will say. But I only buy a ticket when the pot gets to be huge. Actually, I could probably increase my chances of winning if I bought a ticket when the jackpot is lower–but I don’t really know because I barely passed statistics with Professor Singh back in my St. Lawrence University days. I only remember to get a ticket when the good people at NBC Nightly News remind me.

Notice I’ve been saying “a ticket.” Just one. I never buy multiples because I figure if the Universe wants me to win, one is all I need.

Now, most everybody probably has a lottery fantasy, and I’m no exception. I’ve already got that money spent in my head (for the most part responsibly!). But I like to use these few times a year when the lottery possibility presents itself to do a Dream Check. Here’s what I mean:

If I won, I’d buy a house on the beach (and yes, invite all my nearest and dearest friends!).

But if I don’t win, I could make a date with myself or a friend/loved one, pack a picnic lunch, and spend the day at the beach at a state park near my home.

If I won, I’d contribute to a squillion charities and non-profits.

If I don’t win, I could still give a few bucks here and there to the ones that truly speak to me. And if times were lean, I could volunteer my time or services. Because every little bit truly helps.

If I won, I’d fund my retirement so I could travel and pursue my real passion full-time: writing!

If I don’t win, I could forego a Starbuck’s coffee once a week or buy one less pair of shoes a month, and take that money and put it into my actual retirement account so it would grow faster. Notice I didn’t say “stop buying books.” That would just be unrealistic, LOL! And as for the travel, I could get my passport in order, and make sure I have decent luggage, just in case the opportunity to go some place exotic presents itself. You never know!

May you find your pot of gold!
May you find your pot of gold!

See what I mean? The Lottery Fantasy can actually be a pretty healthy exercise. It forces you to think about what is truly important to you. If money were no object, how would you spend your life? Are there small steps you can take now to get yourself closer to your dreams?

Why not set your wishes free by writing them down? On one side of a sheet of paper, make a list of what you’d do with unlimited money. On the other side, brainstorm some ways you could get there, steps you could take to prepare yourself, or actions you could perform that would give you the same satisfaction in your life as it is now.

If you won the lottery, what would you do? Go ahead and spill your deepest, darkest lottery fantasies here.  I’ll be sure to let you know if I win, darlings. And if you bought a ticket, good luck!

The Hoarder

Scribes June 12, 2013
Thea Devine today, and I am the hoarder (can I get a tv show off of this?). I hoard my ideas. I will not share. My ideas and the tangents they take are mine. They are a product of my thinking, my intuition, my interests, my imagination, and things uniquely skewed to my perspective. When once it was suggested that a group of us share ideas we never intended to use, I was adamantly against it. How did I know I’d never use them? I didn’t, and even if I didn’t, I saw no reason to share them.

Now you can make a case that nobody writes the same story even if they’re basing it on the same idea. I do believe this is true, but we’re not talking merely loglines here, we’re talking paragraphs and page-long stream-of-conscious concepts and high concepts, character and scenic description, snippets of conversation, incidents that I’ve witnessed or overheard, words and phrases, titles, log lines, tags, opening paragraphs and opening pages, brief synopses, and all kinds of things that might be useful somewhere, sometime.

My idea file is like a treasure chest. Sometimes I go back and review everything I’ve written in those files — years worth, things I might have forgotten, things that are a key to something else I’ve written or I’m writing now, things I want to work on that rereading them gives me fresh incentive, titles I’ve forgotten, characters I should write about, lives I want to explore fictionally, things I will not share.

Is this selfish? I make no apologies. And I ask you to really think about it: how do you feel about your ideas? Do you keep them to yourself? Do you share? Am I being not only selfish, but unfair?

Thea Devine is working on a contemporary erotic romance. She’s USAToday best-selling the author of 27 erotic contemporary and historical romances and a dozen novellas.

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas? Alison Stone Wants to Know

Alison Stone (200X300)As writers, that has to be one of the biggest questions we get. Ah, I hate to sound cliché, but ideas are everywhere.

 
For my book Random Acts, I read an article about a young girl who had been pulled over for speeding. The police took her into the station and bullied her into signing an agreement to be a drug informant. A drug informant! This college student had never been involved with drugs. But in exchange for leniency for her speeding ticket, she was pressured to be an informant. Fortunately for her, her father was a lawyer. He not only went to the police, but to the media.

 
I then searched the Internet and learned this wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2008, a woman in Florida was killed when she was forced to purchase drugs undercover after being caught with a small amount of cannabis.

By now, my wheels were turning.

For my second book, Too Close to Home, I used an idea that had been bouncing aroundTCTH Alison Stone (200X300) in my head for years—longer than I had been writing. I used to be a manufacturing engineer for an automotive parts supplier. As a twenty-some-year-old female engineer, I was well aware the guys on the floor liked to yank my chain. One guy told me that once someone drowned in one of the large tanks used in the manufacturing process. He claimed he was murdered in retaliation for a drug deal gone bad. I have no idea if “his” story was true or not, but in my story,Too Close to Home, drugs are smuggled through a manufacturing facility and into Canada.

 
Ideas can also be generated by thinking, “What if.” When I learned Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense was looking for more Amish stories, I started brainstorming. The Amish generally shun technology. How could technology wreak havoc in their Plain world? Then it hit me: What if a plane crashed in an Amish field? What if the heroine’s brother was killed in a single-engine plane crash in an Amish field and she has to go there to claim his body? What if while she’s there, the FBI hero starts asking a lot of questions?
Original Plain Pursuit Cover

This idea became Plain Pursuit which will be released by Harlequin in June 2013.

Here’s the blurb: When her brother is killed in a small Amish town, Anna Quinn discovers she’s an unwelcome outsider. But the FBI agent investigating the case is right at home–because Eli Miller was born and raised in Apple Creek’s Plain community. Eli left his Amish faith behind long ago, but his heart is rooted in a local cold case he can’t forget–a mystery with strange connections to Anna’s loss. Desperate to uncover the truth, Anna and Eli are faced with stony silences and secrets…secrets that someone wants to keep buried in the past.

 
It’s fun to see an idea grow into a book, then be summarized in a few-sentence blurb.
Once I was outside chatting with neighbors and one of them stopped, looked at me and said (in all sincerity), “This isn’t going to appear in a book, is it?”
I smiled and said nothing. I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

 
So tell me, If you’re a writer, where do you get your ideas?

Also, Random Acts, originally released in eBook format, is now available in print.Random Acts Alison Stone (200 X 300)

Blurb:Bitter experience left Danielle hesitant to open her heart. When a family crisis brings her home, the hard-nosed attorney is forced to face the man that let her get away. And that her sister’s accident was staged to mask a beating.
Though Patrick guards his heart, seeing Danielle again reignites their old flame. But no way will he bring her into his daughter’s life, not when her values on faith and family are so different from his own. Yet they must work together to bring a criminal to justice before everything is destroyed—including their second chance at forever.

Links for Random Acts:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Random-Acts-ebook/dp/B00795G1X4/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1362254466&sr=8-2
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/random-acts-alison-stone/1108890294?ean=9781609289386

ALISON STONE writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense and Samhain Publishing. Her debut novel, Random Acts, was a finalist for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award in the unpublished inspirational category. Alison lives in Western New York with her husband of over twenty years and their four children where the summers are absolutely gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a good book—or writing one. Besides writing, Alison keeps busy volunteering at her children’s schools, driving her girls to dance, and watching her boys race motocross.
Website:www.AlisonStone.com.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Alison_Stone or @Alison_Stone
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonStoneAuthor
Blog: http://alisonstone.wordpress.com/

The Change Exchange

Long ago, in a publishing landscape far away — does it seem like I’m beginning too many posts this way? I bet you can tell it’s Thea Devine posting today. In any event, Casey’s post a few days ago about flying monkeys called to mind a conference I ran many years ago where I’d invited not only industry people, but also the gentleman in charge of programming at Lifetime TV (seemed like a natural fit, romance and Lifetime), and a producer from USANetwork. I don’t remember anything from any of the workshops I attended (it was a looong time ago) except this: the USA producer talked about writing TV drama and the key to moving the story along.

He said, at the end of each act, something must change.

Extrapolate that for novelists: At the end of each chapter, something must change.

Think about it. Every little shift and setback, a small emotional moment, a big get out of my face statement — and something changes. It can be subtle or monumental. It can be something someone says, or something your heroine sees, or realizes, or theorizes (rightly or wrongly). It could be someone setting your protagonist on the wrong track. It could be a disappointment, a revelation, a decision, an apology, a resolution, an action, or taking no action. It could be something that’s not what it seems or someone’s hidden agenda.

Any of those changes (or any you could think of) should send your protagonist off in a different direction which will lead to more changes, more ramifications and more consequences.
In essence, you’re programming: if heroine does this, then this could happen. Or that. If she says something, someone could be affected negatively, or someone could overhear and spread gossip about it. If she chooses to leave, she will feel free, or she will feel as if she were falling into a black hole all alone. If the hero confesses everything he knows, he would be breaking a childhood code of silence, and therefore implicating his friends in a long ago unsolved misadventure … but he’ll win back the woman he loves.

Each of these moments of change has consequences which then raise the stakes in each succeeding chapter, almost like you’re climbing steps from one complication/change to the next until everything is tied up at the end.

So ask yourself at the end of each chapter: what changes? What can change? If something changed, what would shift? What would send the heroine in a different direction? What if it did? What if it didn’t? What if she wants to stay in place when even when she has choices? What if someone gives her an ultimatum? Or challenges her? What if she walks away from everything? And then wishes she hadn’t. Or is ecstatic that she did?

What happens next?

I leave that to your imagination, your tolerance for change, your aversion to or embrace of risk — in fiction and in life.

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She is the USAToday best-selling author of 25 erotic historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas.. Her 2008 erotic contemporary romance, His Little Black Book, was reissued in October. She’s currently working on a new novel.

When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Work by Katy Lee

Happy New Year! I have just returned from a writing retreat in the mountains, but technically I didn’t step outside, except to buy chocolate, that is. I spent my days glued to my laptop, and honestly, I have never had so much fun working.

Because Suze already told you about the benefits of a writing retreat, I will just second everything she said. See Suze’s post here. BUT I will add one more thing to her list that I came away with this week.

Find a way to do what you love.

Now I’m not saying that means work will be easy for you. It’s called work for a reason and anything worth doing will be hard. It’s going to need a strong will and a strong desire in your heart to complete it. But that’s where the love comes in. If you love it, you’ll do it, and you’ll do it well, and you won’t mind the work. In fact, the harder it is, the sweeter the victory will be when you accomplish what you set out to do.

This week as I sat for long hours from sun up to sun down behind my computer, typing out difficult scenes and plot twists and pulling on my hair when the story and characters took over, I did it all with a smile. I could literally feel my cheeks hurting because I was loving my job so much.

Now if you honestly can’t find that desire in your heart for your work, then perhaps a little search for it will help. Holding onto tasks that you have always done just because you’ve always done them isn’t always a good thing–for anyone. You’re not happy, and the people you’re working for know something is lacking. And perhaps there is someone out there who does have a heart for the work you drudge through. By stepping back to find the work you love, you allow them to step up and find what they love to do, too.

And then everyone’s cheeks will be hurting.

The Unlocked Secret: The secret here is not to find what you love to do. That’s no secret. We all know that. The secret is to learn a way to make a living from doing what you love. Like I said before. It’s going to be work. Hard work right from the beginning. But it all starts with your willingness and openess to learn. And the chocolate does help.

Question: Tell me…what do you love to do??? Have you found a way to make a living doing it? What’s stopping you?

 

 

THE BOOK I HAVEN’T WRITTEN

Thea Devine today.  I’m working on a variety things, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the book I haven’t written.  We all have one of those, the one you started, wrote, rewrote, set aside, tackled again, fell into a rut long before the middle, and packed away because you knew you were absolutely going to finish it — someday.  I think mine is buried in the attic right now just because I’m itching to get my hands on it and of course, Murphy’s Law, I can’t.

I started this book back when I was working for that big multi-national advertising agency I wrote about previously.  In fact, nearly everyone in the copy department, when they weren’t working on copy, was writing a book.  I had no idea what I was doing — I was maybe twenty-three or four.  I just loved to write and the intermittent stabs I made at writing advertising copy petered into one interesting idea one of my bosses used in a tv commercial she pitched which ultimately got shot down.

So definitely not copywriter material (remember I was very young).  But a book … that was a whole other story.

There was small branch library across the street from where I worked, and there I came across a pictorial history that piqued my interest.  From that I devised a scenario with an unconventional heroine,  her male friend, a missing family member (little did I know then that I had one too), an ambitious father, a prim and proper older sister, the daughter of a family friend who comes to stay with the heroine’s family, a housekeeper with a mysterious past, a stranger in town who falls for the heroine, and the town madam.

Sounds promising, right?  I had NO idea how to write it.  I started with the heroine and her male friend on an adventure, but that seemed to go nowhere.  I wrote a prologue with the missing family member, a brother, which made more sense, but then what?  Okay, so what about the daughter of the family friend?  Or better yet, what about the interconnections between the families, and why was the old friend’s daughter even there?  Yikes.  Now I had to go back and account for that somehow, but if I did that, I’d throw some other plot points off kilter.

So — send the family friend daughter back to her father.  But then, the only ones the heroine is at odds with are her sister and her father and maybe the housekeeper.  I also had the mystery of the long-gone brother permeating everything, because the heroine wouldn’t let go of the hope he’d return someday.  Well, okay.  But what if he didn’t?

Put the mss aside for a bit.  And then — start the story with the stranger coming to town who will fall for the heroine.  How do they meet?  Should they meet?  What’s his business in town anyway?  Is he a good guy or is he dangerous? Did I really have to know all that before I started writing about it?

You bet.  And worse, as I continued flailing along, the daughter of the family friend started taking over the story. She was beautiful, greedy, outspoken — that girl could have been the heroine but that wasn’t how I envisioned the story. I wanted unconventional girl to be the heroine.  She flouted conventions.  She was at odds with her family.  She had more at stake.  Wait — what did I mean by that?  So time to put the thing down and think about it some more.

So I thought about it some more — like, oh, 40 years, and now, even though there are days I don’t think I know what I’m doing, I do think I finally know how to write this book. I think it could be pretty good.

I could be wrong.

I still haven’t found the original mss pages I wrote, but I do remember the plot points.  I’m thinking I should just start all over, divef in and see what happens. We all should start all over and see what happens.

After all, we all know how to write it now.

Do you have a book you haven’t written?  Or you want to write?  Or never want to tackle ever, even though the idea of the story haunts you?

Thea Devine is working on her next erotic contemporary romance (and peripherally the book she hasn’t written).  Her sequel to The Darkest Heart. Beyond the Night, will be a September 2013 Pocket Star release.