Choosing which inspiration to follow

Sorry about the delay, I’ve been having computer trouble.

So, you’ve been either actively trying for ideas, or have had a few pop up unexpectedly. Go you! Now, which do you actually pursue?

First, write all your ideas down. Preferably someplace that won’t be lost and that you’ll look at again. I don’t care how memorable you think that idea is, write it down. Or type it up, it doesn’t matter. The annuls of literature are full of works lost because the idea was forgotten. Besides, even if you decide not to pursue an idea right away, it might be viable for later.

Some time ago, mostly by accident, I ended up with inspiration for two very different stories in course of a few days. Both were sparked by conversation with family members. The first idea came up when I was reading a writing book called ‘Writing the Paranormal Novel’, which I highly recommend. Reading the section on vampires, it suggested adding some variety to the old cliches, including different occupations. I distinctly remember it bringing up the idea of a vampire accountant. I read the part to my brother and we brainstormed a little. He suggested a vampire surfer. I argued that vampires traditionally do very poorly with water, and salt is a universal deterrent against things that go bump in the night. Then suddenly, I had a plot. A rising star in the competitive surfer world is infected and can no longer surf. His inability to give up his dream leads for him and his friends to uncover two separate conspiracies. I’d give more details, but the book isn’t finished yet.

A day or two later, I was eating out with my mom and sister. My sister was reading fanfiction on her phone and was reading a Transformers/How to Train your Dragon crossover. I haven’t read it myself, but I believe that the dragons were actually transformers that changed into cars. I said, somewhat sarcastically, that I thought they changed into motorcycles. Bam, plot. A ‘How to Train your Dragon’ AU (Alternate Universe, for those not into fanfiction), where they are a biker gang, either motorcycles or motorbikes. Hiccup wants to join, but is considered too much of a geek. Maybe his dad says no, too. Anyway, Hiccup might not be athletic, but he has an intuitive understanding of machinery. He finds a broken Night Fury bike, probably in a junk yard, and fixes it up. Maybe the gears are stripped so he calls it Toothless. C’mon, ‘Night Fury’ would be an awesome name for a bike.

Two premises come up with rather suddenly. One I am pursuing, the other, I probably never will. Why? A number of reasons.

Interest: The vampire surfer one interests me in a way the dragon bike doesn’t. My favorite part of ‘How to Train your Dragon’ is the dragons. I have no interest in bikes.

Time: I only have so much time and creative energy. Both those premises would involve quite a bit of research as I know very little about surfing or bikes. I cannot currently put that much effort into a fanfic. I can barely put it into an original work

I’m not knocking fanfics. I’ve written them in the past and am still reading them. Some are as good or better than the works they’re based on. But that isn’t where I want to dedicate my energy at this time.

Also, while the dragon bike one is clearly going to go in a different direction than the movie, it’s still not quite mine in a way that the vampire surfer idea is.

If anyone wants to use the dragon bike premise and write it, perhaps put their own spin on it, it’s up for grabs. Just let me know. I’d like to read it.

I have a Tumblr account now. It’s still pretty new, not a whole lot on it, but feel free to check it out. Just ignore my posts about having issues, I figured most of those out by now. So far I’ve got an original poem, a little extra-canonical scene from the Hyde Chronicles (no spoilers), some cool nature and animal shots, and why my cat is not a help when trying yoga. More to come. My cat isn’t a help when writing this blog either, he kept coming and sitting on my chest so I can’t see my screen.

How do you chose what ideas to follow?

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Finding Inspiration

Or, luring out the plotbunnies.

Okay, I can’t be the only one with this issue. Some days, ideas come thick and fast, and I can barely keep them straight long enough to write them down. Other days, I can stare at a screen and… nothing. And still nothing. With a long streak of… nothing.

There are days that I want so much to write… but all my ideas have fled, leaving behind bits of fluff blowing about in my brain.

Sometimes the muse whispers in your ear.

Sometimes you have to set out a trap.

How do you find inspiration when your mind is empty? Different people have different strategies, but here’s a few that sometimes help me.

Listen to music. Words or no words? Depends on you. Maybe some of those words can give you a starting point. Or maybe a soundtrack can stir an idea into you. On a related theme, you can try looking at art.

Read previous writing. Try reading through your old brainstorming or free writing sessions. Maybe an idea that tickled your fancy once can do it again. With reinforcements. Stuck in a story? Maybe something you wrote previously can open a few new avenues. What if that offhand remark in chapter four turned out to be more important than it seemed?

Take a Wiki Walk. Type in something that interests you in Wikipedia (or some other wiki) and look for links that might prove interesting. Follow anything that sparks your interest. If you don’t care, probably no one else will either.

Take a real walk. Take a break, think about something else. Move. Active body, active mind. Get outside if you can. I’m always amazed at how much being surrounded by trees can change my very mindset.

Read a good book. No, you are not going to steal their ideas. But you can be inspired by them. Or decide that you like the basic premise but what if they changed this and did that instead? Maybe wondering what would happen if Frankenstein hadn’t abandoned his creation could have you writing a story about a necromancer who accidentally brings her dead cat back to life, and determines to do right by the cat, even if she is horrified both by her powers and her new zombie-cat.

Play. This is a fun one. Pick an idea and just see what you can do with it. Start typing and see what you get. Ask yourself ‘what if?’. We have a bag of fortune cookies in the house. Some day, I’m going to take about half a dozen of them, and see where the fortunes take me. Let yourself explore.

There are many ways of finding inspiration. And I am giving free to each of you a magic bag of plotbunny bait. Sprinkle it around and see what happens. (Before you laugh, I used to be part of a fanfiction message board. When I said I was sprinkling plotbunny bait, nine times out of ten, the author updated the story within forty-eight hours. Use yours wisely.)

My newest book, ‘The Bishop’s Decoy’ is now out in Paperback and Kindle! Today is the last day to get ‘The Pawn’s Play‘ free on Kindle! It expires at midnight Pacific time. It is currently #56 on Amazon’s Kindle list for New Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy! Couldn’t do it without you. Thank you all.

How do you find inspiration?

New Book Out!

The third book of the ‘Hyde Chronicle’, The Bishop’s Decoy is now available in paperback on Amazon and CreateSpace. It will be available in Kindle soon, but for some reason, Kindle wants me to prove I really own the rights to this book. Hopefully that won’t take long.

First chapter is available to be read here.

The Pawn’s Play, the first book in the ‘Hyde Chronicles’, is free on Kindle for five days, starting today! Pass it on! Check it out! Maybe even leave a review? Make an author happy.

All my books  (currently excluding The Bishop’s Decoy) can be read for free by Kindle Unlimited users. But only until July 22-23. After that, they are no longer Kindle exclusive. Yes, that means they will hopefully soon be available in other ebook formats.

Sorry about lack of an update this week. It’s been super busy. But hopefully worth it. Enjoy this month’s Full Moon Festivity.

Worldbuilding 101: Societies

Sorry for the delay on this one. I’ve actually been trying to get this written for weeks. I’ve been incredibly busy, and that unfortunately won’t change. More details later.

So, societies. For a little background, I’ve been trying to revive an idea I had some time ago. A story, that I believe I’ve referred to here, where I wrote a book, but can’t use it. I loved the world, but the plot was unusable for the idea I had. I wanted to write a series of mysteries in a world where the human world and the magic world had collided a few years ago. My main detectives are a shadow fairy and a river dragon, who have set up shop in Philadelphia.

Currently, I’m trying to use that world to write another story, and I’m doing a lot of background notes to try to figure out where everyone is coming from. One of the first thing I decided about the fairies, is that they are a matriarchal society. Because I honestly couldn’t picture them being anything else. So what does that mean?

I didn’t want a simple reversal where women did everything that men traditionally did in most societies in our history. Nor was I trying to portray this as some utopia we should strive for.  Many pre-industrial societies had some firm demarcations on what was men’s work and what was women’s work. Though some of those were less set in stone than others. Take knitting. One of my knitting books tells how in one society (I think it was like Netherlands or Scandinavia), women knit the practical things, like sweaters and socks; men knit decorative pieces of art.

While I’m still developing things, and will probably continue, I’ve decided (for now anyway) that while male fairies are generally bigger and stronger than female fairies, the females are usually stronger at magic. The guard force is about sixty-forty male to female ratio. The main leader is almost always, if not exclusively, the fairy Queen, perhaps with her consort. Inheritance and genetics are primarily reckoned through the female. If a light fairy and a dark fairy have a child together (major taboo there), the child will primarily take after the mother with a few hints of the father’s background.

In addition, I had trouble with the idea of fairies marrying like we do. So, they don’t. Most fairies are actually from contracted meetings. Two fairies make a contract to attempt to have a child, payment and other considerations are decided upon (will the male have visitation, get credit for being the father officially, etc.) and so forth. Sometimes fairies will ‘join’ which is similar to what we consider a marriage except that it isn’t permanent. Usually for a few centuries, but then both parties are free to seek another or re-join. Re-joining again and again with no others in between is unusual, but not taboo. Joining may or may not affect contracting status.

Part of it was that fairies live so very long, and they are so tied to nature and plant life in my mind. I just couldn’t see them being interested doing the same thing forever.

Dragons, on the other hand, were different. In this series, dragons have similar lifespans to fairies, but have very different outlooks. Dragons have a more egalitarian society, and can be led by a Dragon Lord, a Dragon Lady, or both. Swift is male who inherited a river from his mother and became it’s guardian. This was neither traditional nor progressive, and no one really cared.

Dragons also bond for life, and when one dies, or as they put it, ‘returns to the mists and magic’, there’s a thirty percent chance the other will follow within a year. Slightly less chance when there’s young children around.

There’s other races that I’m going to have to come up with backgrounds for. More areas I’ll have to fill in. Just getting the various non-humans to accept human currency led to some interesting thoughts. But why should my non-humans value the same things we do? Maybe even we’re stranger than we think. I read this long but fascinating article that posited that the things we’re taught in psychology may be wrong because we’re using too small a sample, and Americans and Western Europeans are stranger than we think.

Try to stop and think about the implications that your society would include. Most of what I came up with, I hadn’t planned at all with my first tour to this world. I was more interested in how the human world adapted to having non-humans suddenly sharing their space. Something I’m still going to play with more.

So, while I was late posting it, and I’m sorry about that, I do have a Full Moon Festivity for May. On my website I have posted various links to Lunar Lore, with hopefully more to come. For June’s Full Moon Festivity, I have something special planned. Book Three of the Hyde Chronicles will be released June 28th. A few quotes will be up on Pinterest soon. More updates on Facebook. And, starting June 28th, for five days, the first book of the Hyde Chronicles, The Pawn’s Play, will be available free in Kindle format! Please check it out.

What do you consider when you build a society?

Character Development: Fears, Phobias, and Superstitions

This year’s Ravencon was their thirteenth time meeting. As such, they had a few panels on thirteen and the superstitions involved. I was on one, and did some research into triskaidekaphobia, or, fear of the number thirteen. It’s actually pretty fascinating really. Did you know that no one really knows why Friday the thirteenth is considered unlucky? Or why thirteen is considered an unlucky number at all? In some Spanish speaking countries, it’s Tuesday the thirteenth that’s a problem, while in Italy thirteen is generally considered a lucky number, but Friday the seventeenth is unlucky.

But what really struck me was the list of famous people with triskaidekaphobia, particularly Arnold Schoenberg, a prominent composer, who literally died probably because of his phobia. He became sick and depressed when an astrologer warned him that a particular year was dangerous because the digits of his age (76) added up to thirteen. As Friday the thirteenth came around (as it does at least once a year, and can up to three times in a year), he spent the day sick and depressed, dying fifteen minutes before midnight. He was also born on the thirteenth. Evidently no one told him that Friday the thirteenth was supposed to be lucky for those born that day. I read that when I was doing research on superstitions some years ago.

It got me thinking. Everyone has fears, many of us have at least one or two phobias of varying degrees, and most of us have a superstition or two. What do your characters have? Is it plot relevant?

Liska, from the Moonlit Memories series, has a phobia of dogs. For good reason, since dogs can tell her looks don’t match her scent and usually act aggressively towards her. It isn’t a paralyzing phobia, but she will definitely go out of her way to avoid them. Violet, from the Hyde Chronicles, hasn’t been given a specific phobia, but she is also of a more nervous disposition than Liska. She also might be developing a phobia of the stairs in the library, or as she refers to them, ‘the stairs of doom’. Another story involved an actress who was extremely superstitious, to the point of being easily manipulated by the belief that she had been given something for luck.

Fears don’t have to be rational. I have a phobia of cockroaches. Actually, it may be less of a phobia, and more of a deep abiding disgust. I know that roaches aren’t dangerous, but I get sick and squirmy when they are around, and have at times forced someone else to kill a particularly large one so I didn’t have to get close. Is that a rational fear? Not really. Am I going to get over it? Probably not. I don’t even like looking at a picture. Same with needles. Perhaps a slightly more rational fear. It doesn’t help that I apparently have bad veins. Last time I needed an IV, it took three times to get it right. The time before that, it took five. Ick.

Having a phobia does not actually measure courage or the absence of it. Even the bravest of people can have a phobia, perhaps of something harmless. Maybe your volunteer fireman has a phobia of birds. I get into conversations with people about their pets, and I can’t count how many people told me they don’t like cats. Most said they were too sneaky. Both my sisters are arachnophobic. I’ve been doing research into Social Anxiety Disorder, for a character that has selective mutism. That doesn’t mean that character is a coward, just that she gets easily flustered in social situations, to the point of having trouble talking.

While the character’s fear doesn’t have to be rational, there has to be some form of exposure. I can’t have a phobia of wolves if I have never seen or heard of a wolf or dog. It is possible to have a phobia of something that doesn’t exist, but they have to at least heard of it. Like zombies. They don’t exist, but there are people who take the idea very seriously. I have a problem with creepy dolls because of a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode I saw at a very young age. I know that toys don’t come alive, but generally can’t watch movies where that is part of the plot. At least, not anything scarier than ‘Toy Story’.

What does your character’s phobia mean for your character? Is it something they will have to overcome? Is it something that will last through multiple installments? For example, Indiana Jones will probably never lose his fear of snakes. Who knows about your characters fears and superstitions and is that going to be a problem for your character? Sometimes, even people trying to help can cause problems.

If your world is different from ours, than the possibilities for phobias can be different too. Is fear of dragons a phobia, or does that count as justified caution? Probably depends on how deep that fear goes. How does your character deal with their fear? Do they face it, fight it, run from it? Exposure therapy can help with a phobia, but that doesn’t mean that being thrown in the deep end is necessarily going to help. Sometimes when it’s sink or swim, you sink.

Anyone want to share their fears?

What I Learned from Cons

To clarify, I mean conventions. Not scams (though that would be a fascinating post) or negative outcomes.

I went to Ravencon last week. This was my third time attending a con as a panelist and vendor, and I’m not even sure how many times as an attendant. Odds are good that if you are interested in speculative fiction and writing, you’ve either been to a con or two yourself, or at least considered it. I’m not going to give rules for guests. Most of those are common sense. But if you want to go as a panelist or vendor, here’s a few good things to keep in mind.

Be organized and prepared. I cannot possibly emphasize that one enough. It’s something I’m not great at, and there are times it shows. Ninety percent of what I tell you comes back to that. Be organized and prepared. Get all your stuff ready beforehand. Then you won’t have to do things like buy a new piece of equipment the morning the con starts. Or order books that don’t arrive on time.

Register early. While many of these cons have plenty of room for visitors to attend, but if you want to be a guest (talk on a panel, perform, etc.) there are only a limited number of spots. Many of them are full six or eight months before the con starts. So register early, and if you want a table (if you have books to sell, you want a table), register that too. Because those go even faster.

Don’t be afraid to apply even if no one’s ever heard of you. Unless you are trying for a major con like Comic con, there’s room for a few newbies. I was hesitant the first time I applied for Marscon. I had visited for years, but I figured no one knew who I was. Why should they take me? But they did. And then again the next year. And so did Ravencon. Nor was I the only indie author. Give it a chance.

Have a knowledge base. There are a lot of panels during the average convention. Some will be topics you know a fair bit about, others won’t. Do not, however tempted you may be, sign up for a panel that you don’t know enough about. Because your audience will know. They are fans. Do feel free to sign up for a topic that you know some about and can and will research before the con.

Look for and take advantage of opportunities. I was not promised a table at the last Marscon or Ravencon. I brought my stuff anyway. At Marscon, when I asked about it, they let me borrow a table on Friday that they knew the owner wouldn’t be coming until Saturday, and then they let me use the table the costume contest was using when they were done Saturday afternoon. Ravencon, I was on a waiting list. I asked if I could ask if anyone would be willing to share a table with me, in exchange for me covering part of the cost. I was given the dubious answer of ‘I won’t say you can’t…” The best answer I got from that was the one who said I could have his table Sunday, because he wouldn’t be using it. I didn’t have a table Friday. Saturday morning, they told me one group couldn’t make it, and I could use their table for a slightly reduced rate. Then it turned out they were there. Since they had promised me a table, one was borrowed from the dealer’s room and moved to the far end of Author Alley. Location does matter, by the way. My table was barely visible unless you went past the stairs. So Sunday, when some people had already left, I asked if I could move to one of the more centrally placed tables. After all, I had been offered one already…

Double-check. I used a square reader so that I could take card payments. Well, Sunday morning, it gave me trouble, requiring me to upgrade and reload. All while I was trying to ring up the nice gentleman who was waiting patiently to pay me for the set of books he was buying. It said approved. But went out before he signed. An hour later, I noticed my phone saying it didn’t go through. If you’re reading this, congratulations Master of the Obvious, fate decreed you get a free set of books.

Success is what you make it. I was supposed to do a reading with Gail Z. Martin. No one showed up for the first twenty minutes. She had been double booked and left after fifteen. I stuck around, and got one person to come. So I did some readings for him. I signed up for five panels, and was assigned one.  I sold four books (okay, sold two and accidentally gave two away), and about fifteen little critters (panthers, like the foxes on my pinterest. I’ll get a photo or two up soon). I definitely didn’t make back my table costs. Did I have an unsuccessful con? I don’t know. It wasn’t particularly profitable, at least in the short run. But I gave out all my business cards, and had to make some quick substitutes. Since coming back from con, I’ve sold an ebook, and almost a thousand pages of my stories have been read through Kindle Unlimited and the lending library. Yeah, did you know you can read my books for free if you have Kindle Unlimited? You can. Who knows what the future holds.

Did I have a good con? Yes, I did. I had my picture take with a live raven (gorgeous bird), won four books through an author giveaway, made connections with other like-minded people, learned some things, got some ideas for the future, and generally had fun. I had a blast and would definitely do it again in the future.

In other news, as part of the Full Moon Festivities, Secrets of the Moon Fox now has two chapters available to be read free online here. This is edition two. If you like snark and banter, you definitely need to read chapter two. While they didn’t arrive in time for me to take to Ravencon, I do now have paperback copies of the new editions. They look great. Very crisp.

Today is the last day to get edition one. I’m taking them off distribution tomorrow. After that, the only ones left will be the books already printed. Ebooks have already been switched over. Also, if you buy the paperback of edition two from Amazon, you can get a kindle edition for free. Only if you go through Amazon itself, I think. Check it out.

What have you learned from cons or the like?

 

 

 

Announcement

Told you there’d be news today. What do you know, I’m sometimes right.

Okay, one of the reasons I haven’t been online is I’ve been working on a major project. When I released my books, I released them in a large trim size, hoping to cut costs. It has been suggested that may be one of the reasons that they aren’t selling well. So I’ve edited all of them, changed up the covers, and are re-releasing them in a slightly more standard size. There are no major plot differences, no major changes. But there are a couple minor things, fewer mistakes, smoothing things out, etc. At the moment, both copies are available for sale.

When April ends, I’m ending the distribution of edition one of all books. The newer versions are, unfortunately, more expensive. So if you want to buy a copy of the older book, which is cheaper (but has more mistakes in it. Not tons, I did hire an editor, but still, some), now’s the time to do it. Or maybe you’re a collector, and want to get what’s in limited quantity. Who knows, maybe some day my books will be famous and a first edition will actually be worth a lot, especially since there’s currently less than a hundred in existence. ;).

Or maybe you prefer new and better quality and what to buy a new one. I’d be thrilled. Heck, buy both and compare. (Joking, mainly)

I’ll be at Ravencon this weekend, selling the old versions, and the new ones if my shipment arrives on time (probably won’t). If you’re there, come say hi to me. Anyone who sees me at Ravencon and mentions reading my blog gets a free small gift.

In other news, I’ve been writing a few other things. Wrote a poem last week, a villanelle. I dabble in poetry on occasion, and short stories. I’ve been considering ways to share some of my poems and snippets. My ideas are I could open a Tumblr account for them, or share them on this blog. The problem with Tumblr is that I’ve never used it before and have no idea how, but it is a good set up for that kind of work, from my understanding. The problem with posting it here is I’m not sure if people coming for writing advice are as interested in reading my snippets, and vice versa. So, thoughts? Ideas? Anyone interested in reading those?

New covers are on pinterest with links to the books. Take a look. Some are very similar to the original, and one is very, very different.