’Tis the Season

 

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It’s that time of year when the hustle and bustle of the holidays fills your heart with dread and anticipation… Did I say dread? Yep. The dread of what to get some of those people on your Christmas List.

 

If that significant other or friends or relatives gave you a Wish List, you’re lucky. But a lot of us are left panicking at the last moment about what to give somebody on our gift list.

 

Might I give you a suggestion?

 

How about a book?

books-on-shelf

The Writers-in-Residence ladies have a few new books out this year, but I’m not going to limit this pitch to just our tomes (even though they are listed at the end of this article). There are a lot of other books available. Of course, I recommend the classics. But some good books are from new writers. Some are the next book in a favorite series that you might have enjoyed and now might want to share with friends.

 

But there is another reason for me mentioning BOOKS. People aren’t reading as much anymore. WHY? Some schools think the classics are passe and sometimes their reading list leaves a lot to be desired. Here in the Los Angeles area, many of my favorite bookstores have closed. Amazon might have taken away customers, but those stores were a great place to browse and they will be missed. After all, it’s hard to browse through the “shelves” at Amazon. But you can get a book in a day or two delivered to your door. That’s nice. Or the Kindle version is available instantly. But why aren’t people, adults and children, reading as much anymore?

 

No imagination.

 

Movies with car chases and explosions don’t stimulate the imagination. They just drag you along for the ride. The viewer doesn’t bring anything to the party, as it were. As for video games, maybe you get to blow things up or destroy another dozen zombies or a peasant village, but when the game is finished you can start again and do roughly the same thing over and over and over. Boring. These games without a story or characters behind them actually go nowhere.

 

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That brings me back to BOOKS. They can take you places. They introduce you to new worlds and exciting people. They stimulate your imagination to, dare I say it… dream about things. They can help kids set goals in life. They can help adults get their lives in order in case they are going through a rough patch. Or they can just entertain. Nothing wrong with that.

 

Let me introduce you to a little fellow who turns up in a particular Christmas book that I can highly recommend. His name is Orville. He starts out as an egg left under the seat of Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. The egg was left by a wizard with a note saying: Take care of this egg. DO NOT EAT. When the egg hatches, Orville, who happens to be a dragon, has come into the world on a mission. Orville is a special dragon. You see, he is what lights the fire of imagination under people when they READ.

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Young Orville learns a few lessons as he is growing up. He learns the value of the information in books and also about what the world would be like if there were no books… What a horrible thought.

 

This is why we here at The Writers-in-Residence introduce you to new books, both ours and others, just to stimulate your imagination. If you are a parent or have children on your gift giving list, think about giving them a book this year. Something to light that fire under those growing minds before they forget how to dream. And maybe your friends might like something to sooth them during trying times or spur them on when they need a little push in the right direction.

 

It’s the imagination that created every invention, opened frontiers, and let people realize there are others in this world who matter, too. Books stimulate the imagination. READ ON.

 

Have a very Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah.

 

These are a few of our most recent books.

Autumn-Gold, SFB cover photoFBRTMMFront300dpi1200pixFrontCoverOnly300dpi (002)An Almost Perfect MurderHollywood Then and NowBad to the BonePetal in the Wind III

Second Chance Book CoverEvery Castle Needs a Dragon

 

HOLIDAY MEMORIES by Miko Johnston

Miko first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from New York University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. She is the author of the A Petal In The Wind Series; Book III – The Great War has just been released and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington.

 

*   *   *

 

I grew up in 1950s Brooklyn, in an ethnically mixed neighborhood of mostly Irish-Catholic and Jewish households like mine. Living in a community where part of the population celebrated Christmas and part didn’t made the holiday challenging for Jewish families. We may have been religious enough to keep a kosher home, observe the holidays and go to Temple, but we also watched television, listened to the radio, and read the same newspapers and magazines as everyone else. Therefore we couldn’t avoid Christmas, which in this country was beginning to be celebrated less like a religious holiday and more like a national day of celebration. Jesus never drank Coca Cola, but Santa Claus did. He apparently preferred the soft drink to his traditional beverage, milk.

I don’t recall when I first became conscious of Christmas. I knew my family didn’t celebrate the holiday. I figured that was one of the reasons we lived in our apartment. It had no fireplace to hang stockings, not a problem for Jewish tenants. I remember my mother taking me to see Santa at Macy’s Herald Square – yes, the one from the movie – shortly after I turned four. She didn’t prepare me at all for the visit, but as I waited on line, another parent instructed her child, “Don’t pull on Santa’s beard.” I clearly recall sitting on Santa’s lap and seeing tiny cross stitches on the beard along his cheeks. I felt very sorry for him. I thought his beard had been sewn onto his face.

When Santa asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” the question took me aback. I blurted, “I’m Jewish.” Without missing a beat, he asked, “What do you want for Hanukah?” I recited my wish list.

Jewish parents usually fell into one of two camps: surrender or compensate. The former would succumb to buying a Christmas tree, or the more guilt-inducing Hanukah bush. The latter would remind their kids that at Hanukah, you got eight presents, one for each night of the holiday. Granted, seven of them were usually practical things like socks, or small, inexpensive items, with the big finale – the toy or game – on day eight. But it sounded better than getting only one gift.

My parents were big babies. They lacked the patience to dole out presents one day at a time, which led to an innovative way to counter some of the draw of Christmas. It began in 1957, the year I turned six and my kid brother was old enough to comprehend the joy of receiving. That’s when we learned of the existence of an amazing magical being: The Hanukah Man.

The Hanukah Man would show up every year on the first night of Hanukah, bringing gifts to my brother and me. Hanukah usually began on a school day, so when we arrived home from class we were always thrilled to learn he’d stopped by earlier in the day. Naturally, my curiosity about him grew with each year, until I longed to see him, catch him in the act. Whenever Hanukah fell on a weekend, I would stay home and wait for him to show up. I’d wait and wait. Then my parents would suggest I go downstairs to wish a happy Hanukah to my aunt, uncle and cousins, who lived in the apartment below ours. I’d rush down, not wanting to miss the Hanukah Man’s arrival. But wouldn’t you know it? No matter how little or long I waited to leave, how quickly I dashed to my aunt and uncle’s apartment and back, I’d just miss him. Sometimes by only a minute! Still, how could I stay upset for long when my home was filled with presents?

Now came the fun part. The Hanukah Man never left packages in one spot. He would hide them throughout the apartment, in places we could reach without causing any damage to us or the furnishings. Wasn’t he thoughtful? But I still wanted to see him, although part of me feared that if I ever did, he would stop coming. Maybe that’s why I don’t recall asking my parents what he looked like. Instead I made up his appearance in my imagination. Average height, with brown hair, slender body and lots of agility. He dressed in ordinary clothes so no one would suspect who he really was. Brown corduroy pants, tattersall shirt and a camel cardigan, as I recall. No hat.

As soon as we knew he’d arrived, my brother and I would tear through the house, opening drawers, looking under the bed, crawling beneath tables and chairs, and poking through closets in our search for presents. The Hanukah Man never wrapped them, but that was okay. The surprise wasn’t in the opening, but in the finding. Then we’d compare our loot. One year, months after the holiday, I looked for something in a drawer and found a previously undiscovered gift. It even surprised my mother, who had apparently lost track of what the Hanukah Man had hidden.

I once mentioned the Hanukah Man to some kids in school. Their reaction made me feel embarrassed. I wouldn’t talk about him after that except in the safety of my family.

I never had children, nieces or nephews, so I couldn’t continue the tradition of The Hanukah Man, but he lives on in spirit. I married a grandpa, and when our grandchildren were young, interfamily relations became tricky for a while. My husband and I didn’t want to make their parents’ lives more difficult, so we told them we’d come to celebrate and exchange presents whenever it was convenient, which usually meant days after Christmas. By that time, the grandkids had received gifts from their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and two other sets of grandparents. But no one except Grandma Miriam would come over and hide their presents throughout the house, sending the three youngest to search high and low for every wrapped box and gift bag. They’d bring whatever they’d found back to the living room, and then open their gifts.

I don’t know if any of them will continue that tradition, but hopefully they will at least have some good memories. It brought me joy to share this tradition with them, not as the receiver, but in the way my parents enjoyed it. Which is why the Hanukah Man will always be special to me.

(RE)STARTING YOUR ENGINE

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Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the Fifth Grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and has authored novels, short stories and screenplays, as well as non-fiction articles and a newsletter for an American Red Cross chapter.

 

 

(RE)STARTING YOUR ENGINE

I was on an author panel recently, and a member of the audience asked us if we wrote every day. The other panelists confirmed that they did, and I had to confess that I do not. I know, call me Slacker.

 
It’s not like I don’t enjoy writing—most of the time. I usually have plenty of ideas of what to write, I know where my work in progress is heading, and I WANT to sit down and write, but there are days when it just doesn’t happen. The phone rings—Caller ID tells me it’s a friend I haven’t heard from in weeks, so of course I must answer. Or the computer goes on the fritz and I spend an hour in Help Desk Hell, listening to a robovoice assure me that my call is very important, so please stay on the line for the next available representative. Or the dog begs me for a walk with an irresistible, pleading expression on her furry face.

 
And there go my good intentions right out the window.

 
Generally, I make up for lost time, sooner or later. I turn off the phone, let the dog amuse herself in the yard for a while, and swear off Facebook until I’ve done at least 1000 words or put in an hour of writing, whichever comes first.

 
Recently, however, everything ground to a screeching halt—not for a day, or even a week.

 
For a month.

 
I had a good excuse: hip surgery. The surgery itself was uncomplicated and successful, and I’m making a rapid recovery. But in the days leading up to it, I had too many things to think about besides my current work in progress, where I was a little over the halfway point.

 
Post-surgery, there were many more distractions: follow-up doctor appointments, physical therapy, and fatigue that demanded frequent naps. Additionally, for a while I needed heavy-duty prescription pain meds—a creativity-killer if ever there was one. The opioid fog began to clear, but I still felt apathetic about writing. I’d abandoned the unfinished novel at a point where I wasn’t sure exactly what should happen next, which was a huge tactical error, but by then it was too late to remedy it.

 
I stared at the pile of pages on my writing table, overwhelmed with hopelessness. The novel reminded me of a car with a dead battery; the parts were all there, but the battery was drained and the vehicle was just a cold, unresponsive lump of metal—or, in this case, paper. Stalled car

At that point, I gave in to despair. Why bother? Who cares? Does the world even need another book from me?

 
Then I remembered that some people did care: my writers’ critique group. I soon would owe them 30 pages of new work. With that deadline looming, I sighed. How could I let them down? I must at least try to produce something for them. So I picked up the pages and re-read what I’d written before I went under the knife, all the while laughing at my foolish assumption that I would “catch up on my writing” while I was recuperating.

 
The pages I’d already written weren’t bad, and I’d gotten some positive feedback from my fellow writers. I started writing down words, reminding myself that if  I simply put them on paper, I’d have something to work on, something to build on and edit. I remembered a valuable saying: You can’t fix what’s not on the page.

 
I knew this approach as surely as I knew my own name, so I gritted my teeth and ground out five pages. They seemed flat and pointless. But at least I had something to show for my time and effort. And as I read over what I’d written, I had an idea for how to make them better. A flicker of hope beckoned. Hey, maybe this wasn’t a lost cause.

 

I wrote a few additional pages, and the more I wrote, the more ideas started to flow. First a trickle, then a stream. I lost track of time as I scribbled the outline of what needed to happen next, and a delicious enthusiasm flowed over me, that feeling I’d begun to fear was lost for good. That poor old dead engine had finally turned over. It sputtered a few times, but then it started chugging along.

 
I still have a long way to go to “The End,” but if I hadn’t sat down and made myself pretend to be a writer again, the muse would not have whispered in my ear. Why try and talk to someone who’s not listening?

 
So you see, magic can still happen. Believe in it. You may think the game is lost, but there’s always the chance it isn’t over yet. There may be a tiny spark of life left in that engine after all, but you won’t know unless you fiddle around with it a while.

Anybody out there who had to abandon a project and then fought to resurrect it after some time had passed? How did you get going again, or did you? Or perhaps now you’re thinking, maybe you will . . .?

 

Ideas are Everywhere by Linda O. Johnston

lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and also currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  Her most recent release is her 44th published novel, with more to come.

 

                   *  *  *

 

I learned last week that my 50th novel will be published in 2018.

Oh, I knew it would be published soon, since I’m well aware of my various deadlines and have met a bunch recently.  I’m currently working on that 50th, my last Harlequin Nocturne which will be the ninth in my Alpha Force miniseries about a covert military unit of shapeshifters.  But also next year two stories in my K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense will be published.  I wasn’t sure when the second one would come out since the first is in March, but it’ll be an October release.  Plus, the fourth in my Barkery & Biscuits mystery series for Midnight Ink will be published in May.  Yes, I’ll have four novels out next year, ending with that 50th one.

I recognize that’s a lot of books, but they won’t be my last.  I’m under contract for another one, in 2019, and hope to add  more to that as well. 

People ask me often where I get my ideas.  My answer?  Everywhere!  And all the time, even when I’m not searching for new ideas.

The thing is, everything around you can be used as an idea for a story.  People you love; people you hate.  Stories you hear about in the media.  Stories you hear about from friends or acquaintances.  Things that happen to you in real life.  Things you wish would happen in real life.  Things you wish hadn’t happened to you in real life. They’re all fodder for fiction!

How?  Use your imagination.  Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here, but my favorite quote is: “Reality is only for those who lack imagination.”

Now, I’ve not experienced most of what I’ve written about–hardly any of it.  My first published novels, for example, were time travel romances, and I haven’t left the world of today to research them–whatever moment that today happened to be.  Those stories were published quite a while in the past from today’s today.

The stories that in a way came closest to being part of my reality were my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries.  Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie.  At the time, I was a practicing lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with two Cavaliers, and the tricolor was my sweet Lexie.  But fortunately, I was never accused of an ethics violations, which Kendra was–and that made her turn to pet-sitting to earn a living.  Nor do I, or my friends and acquaintances, stumble over dead bodies.  And unfortunately, we lost our Lexie a while ago. 

But I still write mysteries, including the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries that feature a veterinary technician who bakes and sells some of the healthy treats she developed as a vet tech in one of the two bakeries she owns–one of which is a barkery for dog treats.   I have little in common with her but our love for dogs and feeding them right, but I got that idea and had to run with it.

I never met any shapeshifters, but my Alpha Force stories for Harlequin have been fun.  And I always like to include elements of both romance and suspense in all of my stories, so writing romantic suspense feels natural.  My mind is always spinning around what stories can be told about any situation.  In fact, I’ve a proposal out there involving one idea I had recently, and while I was traveling earlier this month another idea started shoving itself into my mind that evolved from a very normal travel situation.  I’ll eventually work on a proposal for that one, too.

So go with it.  Think about… whatever’s around you, whatever isn’t around you, whatever you’d like to be around you. 

It can all create ideas for a story.

 

Remember, Remember with Rosemary Lord

 

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Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!  She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

* * *

Goodness – November already! November is the month we have an abundance of remembrances.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot…” – so begins the children’s rhyme about the failed gunpowder plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Traditionally, on chilly November 5th evenings, we celebrated with bonfires in the garden where, as kids, we burned effigies of Guy Fawkes (simply known as ‘guys’), roasted jacket potatoes in the fire and drank steaming mugs of hot cocoa in the dark, as the grown-ups set off fire-works. For days prior to this, young children would parade their ‘guys’ around the streets on carts, asking for “a penny for the guy” – to earn money to buy the fireworks. Somehow, I don’t think this happens today… but it was fun while it lasted.

Every third Thursday of the eleventh month, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, when we remember how thankful we are for living in America. We recall the many people and things we have to be thankful for and remember those brave pioneers, the Pilgrims and the early settlers who paved the way for us. In America, this is the biggest family holiday when we celebrate with turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings.

And there is Remembrance Day: at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Great Britain and allied and Commonwealth countries observe two minutes silence to honor those fallen in combat. November 11th marked the end of World War One in 1918 and November eleventh is still honored to this day. Also known as ‘Poppy Day,’ The British Legion sells red poppies that are worn in the days preceding November 11th, as a mark of respect, and wreaths of poppies are placed on public monuments.

In the United States, November 11th is Veterans’ Day – formerly called Armistice Day – and honors all those who served in the military in various conflicts. (In America, Memorial Day at the end of May, honors all those who lost their lives in these conflicts.)

This Remembrance, or Veterans’ Day, I was in London, viewing the seas of red poppies wherever I looked. So forgive me if I share once again, the comments I had written a couple of years ago, on the occasion of this solemn, yet so very proud, moving, tradition:

We honor all those ordinary – yet extraordinary – folk who have stood between us and harm’s way throughout the ages. They sacrificed their lives so that we could have the freedom to live on.

In England we call November 11th Remembrance Day, when we remember all those who lost their lives in various conflicts. The Remembrance Poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field” written in May 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, after he noticed all the red poppies that had grown over the graves where so many soldiers, nurses and others were buried in that far off Belgian field in the first World War.

Since 1919, our fallen ones have been commemorated in England with two minutes silence at the 11th hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This marks the end of World War One, known as The Great War, in 1918.

Since then, time stands still in Britain for these two minutes. In London, as Big Ben rings the last stroke, traffic comes to a stand-still. Red London buses, black taxi-cabs and delivery vans come to a halt in central London and throughout the country. Pedestrians stop, many bow their heads as a sign of respect for all those who have fallen in conflicts since then. So much is said in that two minutes silence.

In their honor we wear artificial red poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance or Armistice Day – known as Veterans Day in America – as we all unite in paying our respects to those who sacrificed so much to give us our freedom.

And I am truly humbled and embarrassed that I had been moaning about my too-busy life and not having enough time to write. Those we remember on this day would love to have lived long enough to have such simple problems.

We remember and honor the fallen today, as the tradition says, LEST WE FORGET.

……………………

Rosemary Lord 2017

 

 

 

REMEMBER, REMEMBER…

Thanksgiving card

Goodness – November already! November is the month we have an abundance of remembrances.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot…” – so begins the children’s rhyme about the failed gunpowder plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Traditionally, on chilly November 5th evenings, we celebrated with bonfires in the garden where, as kids, we burned effigies of Guy Fawkes (simply known as ‘guys’), roasted jacket potatoes in the fire and drank steaming mugs of hot cocoa in the dark, as the grown-ups set off fire-works. For days prior to this, young children would parade their ‘guys’ around the streets on carts, asking for “a penny for the guy” – to earn money to buy the fireworks. Somehow, I don’t think this happens today… but it was fun while it lasted.

 

Every third Thursday of the eleventh month, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, when we remember how thankful we are for living in America. We recall the many people and things we have to be thankful for and remember those brave pioneers, the Pilgrims and the early settlers who paved the way for us. In America, this is the biggest family holiday when we celebrate with turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings.

And there is Remembrance Day: at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Great Britain and allied and Commonwealth countries observe two minutes silence to honor those fallen in combat. November 11th marked the end of World War One in 1918 and November eleventh is still honored to this day. Also known as ‘Poppy Day,’ The British Legion sells red poppies that are worn in the days preceding November 11th, as a mark of respect, and wreaths of poppies are placed on public monuments.

In the United States, November 11th is Veterans’ Day – formerly called Armistice Day – and honors all those who served in the military in various conflicts. (In America, Memorial Day at the end of May, honors all those who lost their lives in these conflicts.)

This Remembrance, or Veterans’ Day, I was in London, viewing the seas of red poppies wherever I looked. So forgive me if I share once again, the comments I had written a couple of years ago, on the occasion of this solemn, yet so very proud, moving, tradition:

EaglesUp

We honor all those ordinary – yet extraordinary – folk who have stood between us and harm’s way throughout the ages. They sacrificed their lives so that we could have the freedom to live on.

In England we call November 11th Remembrance Day, when we remember all those who lost their lives in various conflicts. The Remembrance Poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field” written in May 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, after he noticed all the red poppies that had grown over the graves where so many soldiers, nurses and others were buried in that far off Belgian field in the first World War.

Since 1919, our fallen ones have been commemorated in England with two minutes silence at the 11th hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This marks the end of World War One, known as The Great War, in 1918.

Since then, time stands still in Britain for these two minutes. In London, as Big Ben rings the last stroke, traffic comes to a stand-still. Red London buses, black taxi-cabs and delivery vans come to a halt in central London and throughout the country. Pedestrians stop, many bow their heads as a sign of respect for all those who have fallen in conflicts since then. So much is said in that two minutes silence.

In their honor we wear artificial red poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance or Armistice Day – known as Veterans Day in America – as we all unite in paying our respects to those who sacrificed so much to give us our freedom.

And I am truly humbled and embarrassed that I had been moaning about my too-busy life and not having enough time to write. Those we remember on this day would love to have lived long enough to have such simple problems.

We remember and honor the fallen today, as the tradition says, LEST WE FORGET.

Sky Flag

Rosemary Lord 2017

(Rosemary is out of the country visiting relatives so I put up her post today, but these are her thoughts and words, my friends. But I, too, share her wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.)

 

“Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?” by Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of the “A Petal In The Wind” series. Her third novel, “The Great War”, will be released next month. Miko lives in Washington (the big one).

 

Ah, inspiration. Creativity. The stuff that propels people like us to write.

 

I once took a course in creative thinking. It emphasized that creative ideas will come to you when you’re thinking about nothing. They’ll pop into your mind when you’re out for a walk, or unloading the dishwasher, or brushing your teeth. Sometimes they do, but not with assured reliability. The same is true when you’re trying to solve a problem. Creative ideas may come, but often the idea has no connection with what you’re focused on, and you rarely get struck by “problem-solved” lightning. Even if you come up with a brilliant idea, then what? Brilliant ideas are a pressure chamber. They set the bar stratospheric. How can you possibly be creative when you absolutely, positively must?

 

Therefore when family and friends have asked me, “Where do you get your ideas from?”, I never could answer that question. Until now. It all comes down to check and balance.

 

I’ve taught myself to focus on writing problems – ideas to launch a story or fix a stumbling block – and find a workable solution, not count on one spontaneously appearing. One of my tricks is to forego creativity and focus on the problem logically. Often when right brain creativity fails, left brain logic can nudge forth a wisp of an idea that you can build onto until you at least have a direction. For example, if I’m inspired to write about a young girl who wants to leave home, I could come up with dozens of scenarios of why and how she leaves. But logically, in order for this to be a story, I know one thing for sure – she has to leave home. Then it becomes a matter of when – is her leaving the inciting incident that launches the story, or will it be the climax?  That narrows the choices, and the focus, therefore maintaining the check and balance between creativity and logic.

 

Then there are times when logic isn’t the answer. To balance that, I switch my thinking from left brain to right, using free-form writing when I’m stumped in a scene. I select two characters and begin writing a conversation between them. I don’t bother with punctuation or tags, I just write. It usually takes between two and five minutes, but eventually my brain switches over and what comes out aren’t my words, but those of my characters’. Then I check it for any insight they may have and usually garner an idea for moving the story forward.

 

Sometimes the present solution lies in the past. Throughout the decades, I’ve jotted down many detached ideas that seemed worth saving. Sometimes it’s a clever line. Other times it’s a plot twist from a book or TV show that struck me as ingenious. I won’t repeat it, but I’ll take the basic premise and re-twist it. I did that in my current novel, A Petal In The Wind III, to solve a mystery in a way that will keep the middle of the book from sagging. These are one-time-only ideas, though, hence the balance. Why waste a clever idea on a project that doesn’t deserve it? That would be like breaking your diet with a graham cracker, not even a s’more.

 

I’m very fortunate to be at a point where life is good. While I want to enjoy it for as long as it lasts, sometimes it concerns me. I worry: What if I let it go to my head and I turn into an a-hole (hereon referred to as “that word”)? I keep myself in check and balance by thinking of the most ridiculous, outrageous “that word” examples I can, and then find the silliness in them. It isn’t hard. That’s how I get many of my humorous ideas.

 

These different methods share one commonality. I believe that inspiration, creativity, and ideas are all most likely to happen when you’re immersed in writing. Not just writing, working on it. If we don’t write, keep writing, work on improving our writing, we don’t leave ourselves open to ideas. It’s like searching china replacement websites to find pieces from your discontinued pattern to replace the ones you broke. There’s no guarantee they will be found, but it’s more likely to be found.

 

Consequently the best answer I have to, “Where do you get your ideas from”, is: “From writing.” As Linda O. Johnston pointed out in her recent post, writing is writing. Even something as specific as novel writing is “writing”, whether you’re trying to summarize a 400-page manuscript into three paragraphs for a query letter, distilling the story into a single logline, or expressing the proper gratitude in your Acknowledgements page. Then there’s everyday life writing – from letters of condolence and congratulations to reviews and critiques, emails, thank you notes, journaling, and more. All writing challenges us to form a series of words that unite into paragraphs and pages, sentences and stories. Words that will elucidate, or entertain, or maybe both. For those of us who call ourselves writers, writing is a part of who we are, and each type of writing expresses different parts of us. It keeps us in balance, and if we’re lucky, in checks.