Tag Archives: ideas

Where do you get your ideas?

If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, then you already know how a writer comes up her ideas.  It’s one meaningless piece at a time, pulled out of a jumbled cardboard box of everything a writer has seen, heard, touched, felt, dreamed, or imagined – because all writers are fearful magpies; we collect and hoard every little thing that crosses our paths, as though anything might be the last of everything.  Eventually, since all jigsaw boxes are finite, our box starts bulging at the dreams.  Things start leaking back through into our ordinary life; we find ourselves standing motionlessly in front of the running tap while we consider an image of a deep city of darkness falling away beneath our feet, or a man with a feather quill writing words into flesh with ink and blood.

And we know it’s time.

We pour out our box onto the table, and we start sorting through the pieces, looking for the ones that shine the brightest, or have the most lovely gloom.  They are a bit of overheard conversation, a magazine headline that we misread in an interesting way, or the sound of a mother calling her child home in the darkness.  We turn those pieces this way and that way, until they join together in our imaginations, and we see a little glimmer of the finished picture – no more than a single window in our mythical deep city, perhaps, but enough to show us where they connect, and the place that gives them meaning.

digital contact

And it’s in that place that a story is found.


As a writer, the most difficult thing about finishing a book is trying to decide which book to write next. I have so many characters and bits and pieces of plot milling around in my head, shoving and jostling for my attention, that I have trouble deciding which I love most. Last night I got to thinking about my future books and books-in-progress, and I decided to make a list.

1) The Mask of Fate/The Mask of Destiny. This is a two book YA series, and I’m currently working on the second revision. Someday, there will be a third volume, because one of the more minor characters is still bouncing around in my head, demanding for the chance to tell her own version of events. What happens to a city that tries to shut away the rest of the world by building upward, not out, until the only the most rich live in the light, and the poor are condemned to a life in darkness? The people live by the guttering dregs of oil in a lantern, too afraid to look outside the walls, while the magic holding the walls together is slowly unraveling, and one girl has to decide for herself whether she’s the one destined to save everything or destroy it completely.

2) Arassa. This one still needs a good title – I’m about two-thirds of the way through this one, maybe a bit further. I started writing this one sort of by mistake. I was watching HBO’s Rome, and reading a lot of non-fiction about ancient Rome, and I started playing around with a couple of characters…just for my own entertainment. Although it’s “set” in ancient Rome, I changed the name of the city to “Itorica”, so I could keep all the good stuff of ancient Rome and add in all the fantastical elements I wanted. When I had about 4 or 5 chapters, I posted them for fun on Goodreads.com. When I received a pm from a stranger begging for more, I decided to keep writing and posting chapters. It’s been interesting doing it this way, because every time I post a chapter I basically lock myself in to what’s happened. I can’t just throw stuff in, knowing I’ll change it later and make it ‘right’.

3) Haunted Venice. No title as yet. This was the book I was supposed to be writing, instead of Arassa. I got the idea of a water-city like Venice – only there are creatures that live in the canals, and the water is constantly rising, forcing the people to abandon and lock up the flooded lower levels of their homes. The ghosts of the dead can be bound into stone and captured in candle flames or songbirds…. I have a few chapters of this one written.

4) Ichabod’s Bridge. A modern-day, realistic story of the friendship between two damaged teenaged boys. It’s also a murder mystery of sorts. I say “of sorts” because the mystery part of the plot is in sad disarray. It needs serious work on the rational, logical parts. But the emotional sections are the most beautiful and raw writing I’ve ever done. Some day, when I can get the plot worked through, I’m going to re-write it. All of my modern-day novels in progress thus far are interconnected through a group called Betticker & Associates. It’s an association of lawyers, who do most of their work outside the courtroom – whatever needs to be fixed, they can do it, whatever it requires. The man who comes to investigate the murder in Ichabod’s Bridge is one of Betticker’s associates.

5) Breathing Ghosts. Another modern-day novel, about a woman who suffers a car accident and wakes up with amnesia. While she’s re-learning her life, her husband, and her family, she starts to realize that she isn’t really that woman at all – a completely different set of memories are slowly coming to light, including a different name. Has her husband been lying to her, or was she lying to him? Who can she trust, if she can’t even trust herself? This one not only has Betticker & Associates in it, it also introduces LABS, Inc, my ruthless organization of scientists who tend to get on the opposite side of Betticker.

6) God’s Wolves. This one is full-on LABS, Inc, as a former employee of theirs gets uncomfortably close to some of their experimentation.

7) Time Travel. No title yet. And nothing written, but this one is seriously haunting me. If you read one of my earlier posts, this is the novel I was talking about. My Revolutionary time-traveling soldier named Flinders. LABS, Inc are probably involved in this as well; it’s the sort of thing they’d have a finger in.

8 ) Fog Ferry. No title. What if you take a ride on a perfectly normal ferry, and the ferry gets lost in the fog? Really lost, as in there’s nothing out there but fog? Shortly after I came up with idea, I took a ferry ride, and the fog really did come in and surround us, blocking out everything. It was a wonderful half hour of recording impressions and scribbling bits of plot! Would the folks who had food in their cars share with the walk-on passengers? Would they work together to survive, or lose all civilization?

9) Maxy. If I don’t have a title, the main character often becomes the working title. This one is for grade-school children. A girl goes to live with her two ‘Old Aunts’ and discovers she’s an Acquisition Odd, someone who can find things that are lost, misplaced, or hidden. The only problem is, the Dark is trying to break into her world, and she needs to find the way to keep it out, while another Acquisition Odd, a man who has never lost anything (he still has all his baby teeth in his mouth) is seeking to find a way to let it in. I’ve got a lot of this written, but I never seem to finish it.

10) Sarn. Fantasy about a prince who travels to a foreign land to marry a woman from a land that enslaves the Fae, and finds out that his new wife’s family were never interested in the marriage, but had a different plan for him and his native country.

11) Malady. A girl grows up in an iron castle. She’s despised by her uncle, and one day he hires a stranger to be her ‘bodyguard’ and possibly, she suspects, to assassinate her. But if he’s been hired to kill her, why does he keep trying to teach her how to defend herself?

12) Star Wars. Okay, there’s a story behind the working title of this one, because it’s not a Star Wars novel. The thing that fascinated me most when I watched “Revenge of the Sith” was its themes of love and betrayal. Spinning off those themes, I came up with my own story of how a man would survive the complete betrayal by someone he loves of everything he holds most sacred. Since (as usual) I have no clue of a good title, I call it by what inspired it. I have quite a lot written of this one.

13) And finally, there’s lucky thirteen: Mia. One of my very earliest attempts at a novel, and really, really bad. The dialogue alone…well, let’s just say I won’t be posting chapters from this anywhere online. However, parts of it are good enough to keep me thinking about it. One day, perhaps, I’ll go back and revise it completely. There’s a good story in there, beneath all the screamingly horrible parts. Or maybe, I’ll just cannibalize it for another novel.