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?

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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?

Worldbuilding 101: Holidays Part Two

You guys are awesome. I don’t know if last week’s blog resonated with a lot of readers or you were taking pity on an insecure writer (I’m hoping for the first, but I’ll take the second.) but I got more likes faster than any previous post.

You may also be behind the upswing on my Pinterest account. Still didn’t sell any books on kindle, but I remain hopeful.

So, holidays, part two. The problem with putting this off two weeks is I can no longer remember what it was I wanted to say. Hopefully I can remember and put in some good points anyway.

When is your holiday? Is it by the solar calendar, the lunar calendar, always the same day of the week? Christmas is by the solar calendar. It is always December twenty-fifth. Easter is reckoned by the lunar calendar, because Passover is by the lunar calendar. It is also always on the same day of the week (Sunday), like American Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday in November. In Canada, it’s on the second Monday in October.

I can see the Weres using the lunar calendar more commonly, and perhaps the vampires wish to avoid the solar calendar as well. Do races that interact with each other more start using other calendars?

Perhaps your races use another calendar entirely? In Knightfall, there is brief mention of a Yeti holiday, First Winter’s Night which begins the Festival of Ice. Winter is declared to begin when the ice is thick enough to support the full weight of an adult yeti. But no one knows when that will be ahead of time. Also in Knightfall, Violet wishes a goblin RA a happy Mid-year’s day on New Year’s Eve, because the goblin New Year is sometime in June, based on goblin constellations. So, a stellar calendar. Maybe your holiday revolves around a blooming of a plant or the return of a migratory bird or animal.

How is time measured? Without a moon, we may not have months as we know them and it would be harder to differentiate the beginning and end of the year.

Holidays can be heavily linked to the values of the culture. Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Because as a society we are supposed to be grateful and honor our parents and ancestors. Some holidays are made up for commercial reasons. Does anyone really think there is a good reason behind National Ice Cream month other than to sell more ice cream? (I originally used National Pancake day and National doughnut day, but apparently there are reasons behind them.)

Most religions have a day they consider more sacred than others. Most Christians (other than Seventh Day Adventists) have Sunday as a day of rest. Most Jews (and the Seventh Day Adventists) consider Saturday the Sabbath. The Muslims consider Friday a holy day. This is essentially a minor holiday each week. If you are inventing a religion for your race, a weekly holy day is not a bad consideration.

When does the holiday begin? Is it at midnight? At dawn? At sundown the night before? How old is your holiday? You may not think that matters, but it does. What a holiday is meant to be is not always closely related to what it becomes after some decades of time. Memorial Day is supposed to be a time to remember those who have fallen in battle. It was originally observed by decorating the graves of soldiers (and by some partisan speeches and bickering). But it has been turned into a three day weekend which is often celebrated by cookouts. I don’t believe I did anything last Memorial Day. I’m not passing judgement, but I think we can all admit the holiday changed over the years. The further a holiday is from the original founding, the more likely that the meaning and way of celebrating has changed.

Have fun making up your own holidays and celebrating the upcoming ones!

A little note, I’ve made Hyde University pins. You can see them and read about the development of the Hyde University crest on Facebook.

Update

Sorry I’ve been off for awhile. Sometimes I get blocked and then distracted. I hope to have a real post on Monday. But in the meantime, I’m pleased to make a few announcements.

Knightfall, the sequel to The Pawn’s Play, is now out as the second book in the Hyde Chronicles. Available on Createspace and Amazon. First chapter can be read for free here.

I now have a Facebook and a Pinterest account. Each has unique items that are not available elsewhere. With a little luck and organization, the plan is to release a blog post on Monday, new pins on Wednesday, and something new on Facebook on Friday. Being me, this probably won’t work out for long, but here’s hoping. Check them out.

Nightmare’s Revenge, second book in the ‘Moonlight Memories’ series will be available on Halloween. First chapter will be available soon. Sneak peek of the cover is available on Pinterest.

I will be a guest at Marscon (Jan. 12-14) and Ravencon (April 20-22). New announcements coming soon.

Another Update

Okay, so apparently ‘update tomorrow’ means ‘update a few months from now’. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy, but who hasn’t. Since my last update, I’ve put out a book (The Pawn’s Play, now available on Amazon and CreateSpace); had two adventures while trying to drive home in a tropical storm (it’s a really bad idea to lock your keys in your car while it’s running in any case. Doing it at midnight, during a tropical storm, while your phone is in said car is worse.); bought a new (used) car and accidentally rear-ended my Dad’s car while trying to take it home (no injuries, no damage to his car, mine was drivable but the headlight was damaged and it was weeks before I could get it fixed); gotten a new addition to the family (in the form of an awesome cat); been snowed in for days (see my previous driving record, I am not driving on ice!); and been a panelist at Marscon (don’t think I made too much of a fool of myself, and I sold twenty-two books out of thirty.).

Anyone here who found out about me/my blog from Marscon? I’d love to know. I’m also working on writing a newsletter. I’m trying to set up a widget where you can sign up on this blog and my website to be added to my mailing list, but if that’s not set up, then you can email me at hjhardingbooks@gmail.com and request to be added. First newsletter will hopefully be out by the end of next week. Judging by the frequency of this blog, newsletters will not be overly frequent, so don’t worry about being spammed.

For anyone interested in knowing, I plan to attend Ravencon, but I did not sign up in time to be a panelist or even to reserve a table. I may have a few copies of my own books to sell, but more than that would not be fair to those who did pay to reserve a table. I would however be more than willing to talk about my books to anyone there.

The sequel of Secrets of the Moon Fox is not out yet. I was hoping March, but since I’m less than a quarter of the way through revising, it might be later still. The sequel to The Pawn’s Play, titled Knightfall, is through revision and should easily be available in the spring. Still needs to be professionally edited and any changes from that, but I’m not expecting any holdups.

First chapter of The Pawn’s Play can be read here for free. Please check it out. Like I did for Secrets of the Moon Fox, I would like to propose a contest letting a reader win a free autographed copy (by the way, the contest for Moon Fox is still open, details are at the bottom of the post on the link). The Pawn’s Play is a more tongue in cheek book than Secrets of the Moon Fox. It was actually supposed to be humor (sort of), and was inspired because my sister asked me to write a vampire school book. That didn’t happen either. But all the buildings that are named at Hyde are named for people who have something in common. The name could be first or last, real or fictional. First person to correctly identify what they have in common and the name behind each building gets a free autographed copy.

  1. King Library
  2. Shelley dorm
  3. Price dorm
  4. Griffin Infirmary
  5. Victor Science Building
  6. Addams dorm
  7. Barker Central building
  8. Meyer dorm
  9. Stevenson History building
  10. Poe Humanities building

Some are easier than others, but there are no tricks and no one is named twice. Either leave a comment or email me.

Monday I’ll have a writing blog. Promise. (I think. Fingers crossed.)