No Such Thing as an Idea Mill

I was going to either skip my blog this week or change the subject as another blogger I follow used a similar subject a couple days ago.  Then I decided, since I quit worrying about the same thing happening with my stories, why should I worry about it in a blog?  If people choose to think I plagiarized something I had written five years before the similar story came out (or in this case, a few days), so be it.  If I kept caring, I’d never publish or send anything out because it happens ALL THE BLOODY TIME.

So here goes.

I keep getting asked the most annoying question I can be asked as a writer.  THe question is’t what you might think.  It’s not “Have you had anything published?” or “When are you getting published?” or even “Why haven’t you been published yet?”  No, the question I most despise is one every writer seems to get, rich and famous, well-established, newly published, or simply new.  It is the dreaded “Where do you get your ideas?”

People will ask it almost every time the subject of being a writer comes up in conversation.  It’s not like we as writers can go purchase them from a warehouse.  “One idea, please, Steampunk romance with Airship Pirates if you have any left.”  (Hmmm, Steampunk could be fun . . . no!  No!  Later!)  Still, it should be an easy question to answer, or at least they think so.  Trouble is, I have no idea.  Or perhaps more accurately, they come from everywhere.

Sometimes it just pops into my head, unheeded and unasked for.  For example, Magic’s Guardian, my first actual publishing venture, got it’s very beginnings from fan fiction.  It was a fan fiction peice based on Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.  (Ms. Hamilton, in the one-in-infinity chance you ever read this, I AM aware of your disapproval of fan fiction and had no plans whatsoever to post it anywhere.  It was for my pleasure only.  I had just finished The Laughign Corpse and there was no sign of another one and I missed Jean-Claude so I started to think, then to write.  No offence or stealing of characters intended.  I promise.)  Then I realized my original character, who developed I have no idea how or why, was in entirely the wrong setting.  So she went through some changes, going from the confident lead singer of a rock band that was going to feature in a certain creature of the night’s certain extablishment once a week without realizing the kind of magical potential she had, to a shy college student who felt she never fit in and didn’t realize magic even existed.  Then she went from the urban setting of St. Louis to the rural setting of a mountain getaway, and instead of vampires and werewolves it seemed the story should feature fairies.  I didn’t know why then, and I still don’t.

Of course then my brain started really digging in, and I thought, if I were ever going to meet a fairy, who would I want to meet?  And of course I would want to meet the most famous fairy of all, the not-particularly-nice little mischief maker Puck from my favorite of all plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  From there, since I had always imagined Puck as quite a young fellow, probably because the first painting I ever saw featuring him as a central figure, actually many paintings, showed him as a cherubic baby.   So, I think, he’s probably matured since then.  A little.  So he became an adult figure in the tradition of the larger, more human-looking fairies of European and Celtic legend, creatures that could be benevolent or cruel and either way you may want to avoid interaction at all costs.

Another novel, as yet unfinished in everything but my head, began as a dream.  It involved goblins, whose inhuman faces I can still picture, and for now I shall leave it at that.  I think GreenHaven has good potential and may follow the self-publishing route after Magic’s Guardian and its sequels.

Oh, yes, there are sequels, though in a format I’ve not seen before, with one book leading into another featuring entirely different sets of characters and types of myths.  Magic’s Guardian leads to the Hunt, featureing the Wild Hunt ( I can’t find nearly enough stories featuring the Wild Hunt as a concept, and I love the subject), leading to Moon’s Children (the title may be changed to City Dogs, I haven’t decided yet), not surprisingly dealign with werewolves, which leads to Stone Hearted dealing with vampires, leading to the last untitled novel dealing with  . . . well, everything.

There, now if something similar does pop up, I have proof that I had the idea before I read it anywhere else.

Moon’s Children also started as a dream.  Stone Hearted did not, I was deliberately trying to think of a vampire story specifically for this series, which is an unusual way for me to come up with an idea.  The last one is the same, though that plot is only sketched out in my head in the most general of ways.  The Hunt is the reason it became a series, because I wanted to write more about them after they made an appearance in Magic’s Guardian.

Other stories seemed to fall fully formed in my brain from the very firmament, pushing so hard to come out my head ached.  Okay, not really, the ache came from staring at paper or a computer screen for several hours at a time, but it was because I was compelled to get the words out.  That’s how my science fiction series started.  It started out as a three-novel series set in the world of a certain time traveler in a box with an accent.  I even sent the first one to the publishers of his ongoing book series and, though it was denied for the very reasons I knew it would be (regeneration, too much emphasis on my own character), I was actually and very specifically invited to submit something else as they were pleased with the way I wrote.  I danced when I received that letter, I truly, literally did.  It mentioned plot devices and characters by name–they had read it, for really and truly read it, and liked it even if they were not able to use it!

Of course a few months later, after I did come up with what I thought–and still think–would be a good story and even started it, they stopped accepting unagented manuscripts.  Then I cried.  And turned around and changed all the characters and much of the plot in my series to turn it into something not based in a copyrighted world.  Then they restarted the TV series after I was three-quarters done with the fourth novel.  I trashed it for many years realizing how similar it still was, then changed my mind.  I could not waste fully eight years (at the time) of work.  So I changed it further and am currently finishing the sixth novel and getting ready to send the first out to a small publisher.

So back to my original point.  My ideas can come from anywhere and nowhere.  Asking where I get them is like asking where life comes from.  There are a lot of different answers but no one really knows for absolute sure.  I don’t know if you get ideas in the same non-ways, but most writers seem to give similar answers to mine, just more succinct and probably more interesting.  Personally, I don’t care where they come from, just so they’re there and never stop.  Even if no one ever reads one of my stories, I know they’re there and have had the pleasure in living in the individual worlds for just a little while.  That’s what draws me to writing more than anything, especially since I can’t always predict my own mind and my writing can be as big a surprise to me as reading someone else’s.

So write for yourself, for enjoyment.  The love will warm your words and if you’re lucky enough to find the right way to get your stories to the masses, the masses will feel that warmth.

All kinds of love and good wishes to you, my fellow writers, be you new, old, published, or struggling.

I’d say good night but as this blog is about twelve hours later than ususal, it’s the middle of the afternoon so, instead, good day.

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Not Exactly Lazy, But . . .

I am an awful, awful person.  I have barely written or edited a word this week, and my cover went nowhere.  The wonderful program I thought I’d found didn’t have a function to layer images.  So where it is better than the certain card/poster/etc. making program I use to use which has now been re-imagined to specialize for scrapbooking and so has become useless (why, oh, why couldn’t I have a computer that could accept the old version?), it still won’t work.  So back to the drawing board (ha, ha.  Oh, wait that wasn’t a pun.  It might actually become literal.  Yikes!).

So, out of frustrated disgust, instead I’ve been working on . . . hmmm, might you call it arts and crafts?  Not sure.  A fun but useless project with the sole purpose of trying to cheer me up.  At least that seems to be working.  Here are a couple of examples, and I apologize for the picture quality, while I love my digital camera dearly, it is an older model and isn’t really made for close-ups and still lifes.

Are You My Mummy?

Bwa Ha Ha

Wish the Mad Scientist was a little closer to show the dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes or a little further away to show the “nerd stain” on her pocket (ink stain), but further away lost too much detail and closer was just a blur.

Anyway, these are the fruits of this week’s labor, along with a Young Vampire made from a Tiana doll who is complete but for her black dress and cape.  So while I am rather proud of–or more accurately surprised by–my unexpected level of craftiness, I am suffering giant pangs of guilt for abandoning my inner author.  She’s poking me with a sharp pencil, too, telling me the few words I have put down this week are an unsatisfactory meal.

So beware, my friends, beware the demon Distraction.  He lurks in unexpected places and can leap out at any moment.  No one is invulnerable.

Two months to “P-Day” on January 13 (that’s Publishing Day to all of you who have minds in the gutter) is slipping quickly and quietly past, time to get out the flail and whip Distraction away.

Take care and keep writing.  Peace, Love, and all that jazz!

In it for the Money?

So here it is, three days after Halloween, the last two days of my week off work, and instead of writing I am nursmaiding a sick rat (something I do not mind since I spent Tuesday and Wednesday thinking I was going to spend my vacation watching her die) and planning for next Halloween.  I did not realize how . . . damaged . . . I would feel missing this one, but I simply didn’t have the energy for it.  And I didn’t skip writing altogether, I just didn’t do as much as I had planned, didn’t get very far in designing my cover (the program I was using turned out to be useless, yesterday found one that I think will work if it’s legal to use it for commercial ventures, have been using it to make decorations for my Halloween cubical next year and the more I use it the more pleased and hopeful I am as far as a book cover.)

Yep, I’m a geek.  Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, I have a lot of fandoms going for me AND I write sci-fi and fantasy.  Can a modern sequel to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” get any more nerdy?  Well, yes, it probably could.  Add a pirate fantasy and a sci-fi series about an alien stranded in Earth’s sector of the universe.  Yep, I’m there.

But I’m a proud geek and wouldn’t give up my geekdom if I could.  I might not write about “cool” things or important subjects aimed to change the world, I write to entertain, mostly myself.  Which, in my opinion, is the best reason to start writing.  If you don’t entertain yourself, you probably aren’t going to interest others.

Have you ever read work written by someone who wrote it because it’s a popular subject, not because it’s something they’re interested in?  I have.  It’s not the most pleasant experience.  Even better, have you ever read something written by someone who somehow got the idea it’s a fast, easy way to get rich?  Yep, even worse.  And I’ve never figured out where they get that idea.  For all the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings, can’t they see the number of books by unknown authors sitting next to them, the number of books on the “discount” shelves under names they’ve never heard of?  And those are just the ones that actually made it to publishing.

Nope, if you’re in it for money or fame, get out.  Now.  You aren’t welcome.  If you’re in it because you love it or because you think you have something to say that people should hear, that’s the only reason you should be in it.  Or even if you just feel the need to ramble on and on about nothing and there’s nobody there to listen to you.  Which, judging from the randomness of topics in this blog, is pretty much why I’m writing at this moment.  So perhaps it’s time to stop.

Now, back to next year’s Halloween and maybe a little cover design as I get more familiar with this program.  Fun indeed!

Happy belated Halloween, keep writing, and good luck!