Old Ideas–Love ‘Em!

By Linda O. Johnston

Typewriter and desk What do writers do with old ideas?  That depends!

 As I mentioned last time I was here, I have been fortunate enough to be traditionally published a lot.  But that doesn’t mean that every idea I had made it into a book, or even a novella or short story.

 When I started writing–well, when I really started writing, as a kid, I had to type things up on a typewriter.  What’s that, some of you ask?  It’s the forerunner of our computers and high tech gadgets of today.  Even when I started writing on a computer, it was easier to keep printed copies of my ideas and how I’d fleshed them out into at least the beginning of stories.  Could I have saved them on disks and other techie devices?  Yes, I did that too, some of the time.  But it seemed easier then to hang on to stuff that I’d sent to my printer. 

Computer files And now, my mind remains full of ideas, and I’m always creating new computer files to keep track of them, even if their only existence remains in idea files that I struggle to ensure are backed up, just in case I turn back to them ready to write.  I organize them in general topics–some for mysteries, some for romances, some combined, and lots involving dogs.  And yes, there are others that don’t fit into those categories.

So why am I thinking about this now?  Well, I was communicating recently with a really nice business associate.  She’d recently gone somewhere and seen some wild dolphins. 

Save the Dolphins Which reminded me of one of my earliest ideas that I’m still highly fond of.  Yes, it involved dolphins.  And I thought back then that it would be one of my most cherished published novels someday.  Only… it didn’t get published.  It didn’t even get fully written.  The good thing was that my story’s concept involved changing the world so that no dolphins got killed in tuna nets, as they did in huge numbers when I started the story.  And lo and behold, some of the laws actually changed while I was writing it.  Did the change save all dolphins?  No.  Sure, more dolphins were saved than before.  But the change wasn’t international, and even in waters near here, in the U.S., the protections weren’t perfect, so not all dolphins were saved from that kind of murder.  But my concept wouldn’t have made sense any longer.

 Even so, that’s still a treasured idea.  I’m delighted, though, that the main reason I walked away from it was a really good one–that dolphins actually were at least somewhat protected.

Storage boxes Could I do something different with it now?  Maybe–and the fact that the idea is now back toward the front of my brain at least means it’s scratching at my skull.  But what about all those other ideas I’ve had over the years–like some involving dogs that I began, then elbowed aside because of other stories I was writing that I received contracts for?

 Okay, that’s really part of the fun of being a writer.  Our minds are always working and coming up with ideas and creating scenarios and… Well, you get it, especially if you’re a writer. 

 So… tell us here about some of your old ideas that never made it into a finished work– and what became of them.

Thanks for dropping by,  Linda O. Johnston

 

Pick and ChewsBad to the Bone

MILESTONES by Linda O. Johnston

Signpost 1

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a milestone is “a significant point in development.” Writers can reach a lot of milestones. In fact, that’s part of the writing process.

One milestone is to begin plotting your first book. Even if you’re a “pantser” — you write by the seat of your pants rather than starting with an outline or well-planned plot–your mind will be working on your story, and, yes, that’s a milestone when you begin.

Starting to write is another. Finishing a first draft is another. Finishing a polished story is yet another.

Pencil 2Then there’s the publication process. There are different ways to approach it these days. If you want to be traditionally published, you’ll probably attempt to reach the milestone of obtaining an agent. Or, you may just go directly to a potential publisher with a proposal. Getting your manuscript accepted by one or both constitutes more milestones.

If you self-publish, the process is different, but you’ll still hit milestones–determining how and where you’ll publish, getting your manuscript in the right form for publication, and then, finally, getting your new book out there in print or e-book form or both, for people to buy and read it.

Pencil 1Either way, promotion also sometimes achieves milestones — getting your first review. Getting your first really good review. Throwing your story out there on social media. And milestones in actual sales.

This year, I’m hitting some milestones of a different kind. I’ve been traditionally published for many years — and this year, at the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference to take place soon in Denver, Harlequin will be acknowledging, in its 2018 Author Achievement Awards, that I’ve reached my 25th Book Milestone with them.

And as this year progresses, I’ll have two more Harlequin books published… and the second, my last Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romance since the line is closing, will be a milestone event, too. Including all my other books including mysteries, it will be my 50th published novel!

Signpost 2So yes, this year I’m particularly jazzed about milestones. But whatever stage of writing a writer happens to be in, whatever way they choose to be published, milestones can occur anytime.

What’s your latest milestone?

 

Inspiration? by Linda O. Johnston

What inspires a writer to write?

Money

 

Money?  Maybe.  But unless you’re a best seller,earnings aren’t necessarily inspirational.

 

 

Fun Clown

Fun?  A lot of writers consider what they’re doing to be enjoyable, and who doesn’t like finding a way to amuse oneself?

 

learning

Learning something?  Maybe.  Depending on what you’re writing, it nearly always helps to do some research to ensure that what you say makes sense–or that you find a way of explaining it if it doesn’t.

 

 

 

TeacherTeaching something? Sure.  Whatever your subject, you may know a lot more about it than your reader, or at least you know more about your angle on it.  Let readers know what your story and its contents are all about.

 

 

 

 

Then there’s “just because.”  And I think that’s what motivates me.

Just because I enjoy it, letting my mind wander a lot of the time coming up with ideas that maybe someday can be crafted on the computer into a story.

Just because I can.  I used to be a full-time lawyer and a part-time writer who scooped an hour out of every morning before waking husband and kids and eventually heading to work.  Now, I can write full time.

Just because that’s now who I am–a writer. Typewriter and desk

So my inspiration is a bit unsolved.  I’m inspired by everything I do, everyone I know, everything I learn, to let my mind figure out what can be used in stories… and then write them.

Thomas Alva Edison is said to have come up with the now renowned quote “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  So am I a genius? Not literally. Yes, I grab onto inspiration. I admit to not perspiring much at my computer since I have an air conditioner nearby. But figuratively–I do spend a lot of time at it, and that can be considered a kind of perspiration.

Still, I’m no genius, but I am a writer who’s addicted to what she does.

And maybe I’ll even use this blog post to inspire me to start another mystery or romance one of these days…

 

Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink. She has also written the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink as well as the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spin-off from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  She additionally currently writes the K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense about a ranch where dogs are trained, as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  And yes, they all involve dogs. Her most recent release is her 48th published novel, with more to come…soon.

Recent publications:

Pick and Chews  Second Chance Soldier

Do Writers Write Alone? by Linda O. Johnston

typewriter

Do writers write alone? 

The answer is yes… and no.

Just look at The Writers in Residence.  This group is composed of several women who love to write, and do write extensively.  Our writing takes place alone, since actual writing is generally a solitary pursuit.

But then there is this group.  As many of us as possible get together for lunch monthly as well as blogging here on a schedule, and keeping in touch via email about what’s going on in our writing.

So though we generally write alone, being in communication with each other is also important to us.  And The Writers in Residence is far from being the only writing organization.

books-on-shelfIn fact, when I meet someone who’s a new writer, or who wants to write, and would like my advice on how to proceed, my first response is generally to tell them to join a writing organization.  A general writing organization is fine, but if they happen to write in a genre, then that organization should focus on whatever genre it is.

Why?  Writers enjoy helping other writers.  We encourage others to write and give advice on how to write and how to sell and promote what we’ve written.  Newbies can learn a lot from organizations and talks that are given there and meeting new people with similar interests and… well, a lot of ways.

So me?  In addition to The Writers in Residence, I belong to the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, including their Los Angeles chapters.  That’s because I write mysteries.  I additionally belong to the Romance Writers of America and its Los Angeles, Orange County and Santa Clarita chapters–because I also write romances, mostly romantic suspense.  Then there is the International Thriller Writers.  Yes, I’m considering writing a thriller.  There’s also the Dog Writers of America.  And as any of you who are reading this and are aware of my writing know, nearly everything I write these days has dogs in it!

I also attend quite a few writing conferences.  This year, that will include Malice Domestic, which is all about cozy mysteries, as well as the Romance Writers of America National Conference.

notebookI enjoy interacting with other writers, learning from them and informing them of anything I know that might be helpful to them.   Plus, I love hearing their writing information and suggestions.  I know I’m not alone in that.  So if any of you reading this are writers who want to learn more–and what writer doesn’t want to learn more about our craft and related topics–then join a writers organization or a writers group, or more than one!

AnSecond Chance Soldierd by the way, I’m delighted to say that my first book to be published this year, Second Chance Soldier, is currently available.  It’s the first in my new K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and it’s all about dog training, mystery solving and, yes, romance!

Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink. She has also written the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink as well as the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spin-off from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  She additionally currently writes the K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense about a ranch where dogs are trained, as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  And yes, they all involve dogs. Her most recent release is her 47th published novel, with more to come…soon.

 

Hot to do Everything by Linda O. Johnston

linda-o-johnston-headshot-1smallerLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink. She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  She additionally currently writes the K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense about a ranch where dogs are trained, as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  And yes, they all involve dogs. Her most recent release is her 46th published novel, with more to come…soon.

* * *

I’m thrilled that I’m having four novels traditionally published this year.  I love being busy. 

But can you be too busy doing what you love?  Oh, yes!

I’m used to having deadlines, of course, with my fourth book this year to be my 50th published novel, as I mentioned before.  And I’ve always been able to negotiate deadlines that work for me.

This past week, though, was a bit nuts.  I already had a February 1 deadline for the fourth book of the year, which will be my last paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne.  I then received some detailed copy edits for my fourth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, which will be published in May by Midnight Ink–and the revisions also had a February 1 deadline.  And in the middle of this, I had to take time out to come up with some additional title ideas for the second of my K-9 Ranch Rescue romantic suspense novels to be published this year by Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

I also had family things to do, including responding often to my dogs’ requests to go outside while I’m sitting at my computer working.  Obviously that can’t be ignored.  Neither can demands to be snuggled.  Plus, I’m taking my younger dog to her second round of obedience classes and need to practice what she learns with her.  We also had family in town whom we got together with a lot for meals and more.  And then there’s the normal stuff: sleeping, eating, shopping and more.

So how do I deal with it–and how should you, whether or not you’re a writer, handle it all?  For whoever you are, and whatever you’re doing, we all face times when there’s more to do than we hope or expect.

The answer?  Just dig in and do it!  And yes, I recognize that we all have lives in addition to our writing.   Some of us have full time jobs, young families who aren’t only pets, and other responsibilities as well. 

So… expect it.  Plan for it.  Think about it, don’t obsess–but do it.  Schedule things the best way you can, and recognize that those things may change as you go along.  You’ll adapt.  You have to.

So where am I?  Well, I sent in my title ideas and received word that they chose something similar to, but not identical with, one of my suggestions.  I finished and sent in my Barkery edit comments first, and I’m currently finishing the manuscript for my last Nocturne.  I feel pretty good about how I’d been able to work it all out, although all I had to do meant I haven’t had much time to work on two ideas I’ve had in the meantime for some additional stories.  But that’s okay.  February 2 is on its way, and then I’ll only be under a June 1 deadline for my next book. 

Soon it’ll be time for ideas to flow!

And you?  How do you do everything?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Everything is Research by Linda O. Johnston

lindaphoto
Linda 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 upcoming May release is her 45th published novel, with more to come.
 *  *  *
I’m  writer, and I assume that’s true of many people who read The Writers in Residence blog posts.  I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and it dawned on me long ago that I could, and do, use many aspects of my life as research for what I’m writing: what I read, what I accomplish, in effect nearly everything!
 
For one thing, I love to incorporate dogs in my stories.  I’ve been owned by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for many years, and most of my friends, neighbors and relatives own dogs.  Plus, I’ve been able to observe a lot of dog training and other events involving dogs–and often what I see and experience shows up in what I write.
 
I’m not much of a cook, yet one of my mystery series, the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, includes not only dogs but the protagonist, Carrie Kennersly, owns both a human bakery and a barkery where she sells dog treats.  Some of the barkery material is derived from my visits to local shops in Los Angeles where dog food and treats are cooked and sold–so just visiting there, even if I’m hoping to buy things for my own dogs, is research.
 
Carrie is also a veterinary technician, so when I take my own dogs to the vet I’m also doing research.
 
I’ve also written Superstition Mysteries, and there are a lot of superstitions out there.  While I’m walking I’ve watched strangers stoop to pick up “lucky” pennies–and I do too, just in case.  Others cross their fingers while saying something, or knock on wood.  I’ve heard a lot of people extol their black cats and say they’re lucky, no matter what the superstition says.  Of course black cats being unlucky is a U.S. superstition; in other countries they’re considered lucky.
 
I haven’t run into real shapeshifters yet, I’m sorry to say–I think–but it’s fun researching the legends about them for my Alpha Force paranormal romance stories for Harlequin Nocturne about a covert military force of shapeshifters.
 
Just walking out the front door of my house provides me with ideas and research for some stories.  At the moment all my neighbors are good, but we’ve had some bad ones who, at least, give me story ideas as well as providing research regarding attitudes of some of today’s mostly younger folks.  I also derive ideas and research from some of the things picked up on the security cameras my husband mounted as a result of some of those bad neighbors, as well as from thieves and vagrants who’ve visited our street.  Do we live in an awful, rundown area?  No, just the opposite.  Our neighborhood is great, which may be why it attracts these kinds of issues.  Not fun in reality–but research!
 
Then there’s a new idea I’m working on now that was created after I went on a holiday outing to an interesting area–and my mind just took off on what kinds of mysteries could evolve around there.  Of course I’ve been doing additional research on that area.  Don’t know if this idea will go anywhere, but I’m certainly having fun working with it.
 
And meeting with other writers?  Everyone’s outlook on things is different, even if they’re writing in similar genres, so just talking about life and writing can also be considered a kind of research.
 
So here I am, writing this–and wondering what the next piece of research I’ll pick up will be, and how I’ll incorporate it into a story! 
 
How about you?  What is the most fun or helpful kind of research you’ve happened into in your life?