A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Beats me. I just stand still for a few minutes and am inundated with them.

Hello – I’m Janis Patterson, an author new to Carina. I’ve published many things under the name Janis Susan May, but as I’m now specializing in mysteries, I’m using the name Janis Patterson. THE HOLLOW HOUSE, a cozy mystery set in 1919 Denver, should be out from Carina Publishing early this fall. It’s my very first book with Carina! I’m thinking of using the teaser line, “When a murder is committed in her employer’s house, Geraldine Brunton must solve the crime to hide the fact she herself is a killer.”

So – back to ideas. So many people ask me where I get them and I don’t know how to answer, as I have no clue. Everything is an idea. Look around you. Every item, every person can be the springboard for an idea… if you look at them right.

There’s a car with a crumpled fender. Was there an accident? Was he hit deliberately? Did he run away from an accident? Was his car stolen, damaged then dumped? How would these affect him?

There’s a woman in a very expensive dress but wearing cheap, ugly shoes. Why? What does that say about her? Did she rush to dress this morning, her mind on other things? Is she really broke and making a last desperate attempt to get a good job? Did she steal the dress she is wearing? Is she just an eccentric who doesn’t give a flip?

See? The world is full of ideas if you will just look a little bit beyond what you see.

But… repeat after me. An idea is not a plot. An idea is not a plot. An idea is not a plot.

An idea is part of a plot.

An idea is essential to a plot.

An idea by itself is not a plot.

For a plot you need lots of ideas – hundreds of them, all braided together to form a cohesive story. And everything in your life is a potential idea.

For example – about a year ago The Husband and I were stranded in San Francisco airport when an accursed airline which shall remain nameless as I am afraid of libel cancelled a flight even as they were loading our luggage on the plane. The earliest we could get out was some twelve hours later. (We were lucky – some people next to us were unable to get out for two days!) And ours wasn’t the only flight that aforementioned accursed airline cancelled. The airport was full of very unhappy people.

The Husband is a Captain in the Navy, so we went to the USO, where he promptly went to sleep. I looked at a few magazines, then started to think. An airport full of angry people, a wife stranded in a USO… Hmmm.

From that unfortunately commonplace episode grew the short story DANGER FROM WITHIN. It is about a Navy wife (no surprise, that) who is trapped in a USO by a storm that closes the airport. There is a threat by terrorists, a murder in a locked room full of motivated suspects and a victim who most definitely needed killing. Wonderful fun! And it all started with a cancelled flight. The story appears in the anthology MURDER TO MIL-SPEC.

Commercial: MURDER TO MIL-SPEC is a very special charity anthology done by the magnificent Tony Burton of Wolfmont Publications. Every year he does a crime anthology on one theme or another and all the proceeds are donated to a specific charity. For the last few years it has been Toys For Tots. MURDER TO MIL-SPEC benefits Homes For Our Troops, that wonderful organization which remodels/builds homes for catastrophically injured military people coming home from the war. The authors and the publisher donate their work, the readers get a good bunch of stories and a great deal of money goes to a good charity. It’s a win-win situation.

So where did the idea for THE HOLLOW HOUSE come from? (By the way, I’m told it should be released in October – I can’t wait.) To be quite honest, I have no idea where 1919 came from. It just seemed to fit, being a time of great grief (World War I had just ended, as had the flu epidemic that killed almost as many civilians as the War had soldiers) and a time of great excitement and hope for the future. I won’t give anything away about the story, but the flawed, courageous heroine was based in one particular part on a woman I knew a long time ago. I started to wonder ‘What if…?’ and I was lost. From those two small germs of ideas grew a book that simply begged to be written.

My second book with Carina is a novella called LURE OF THE MUMMY (under the name Janis Susan May, due out sometime this fall) and I can tell you exactly where the basic idea came from on that. In Salima Ikram’s book about sacred animal mummies there is the picture of a rather battered cat mummy. The poor thing is one of the scariest images I’ve ever seen, and as soon as I saw it I had the spark of an idea that grew into my novella. Can’t tell you any more without giving away the story!

So, you see ideas are everywhere. We’re all surrounded by hordes of them every day. What makes the difference is how you see them and what you do with them.


Wynter Daniels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wynter Daniels said...

Sorry - screwed up my first attempt at a comment!
Welcome to the blog. I'm always interested to hear where other authors draw inspiration. Congrats on your upcoming releases.

MaureenAMiller said...

Welcome, Janis. I look forward to reading to The HOLLOW HOUSE in September. It sounds great!
As a person who used to travel for a living, I felt your pain. But just idea is not a plot! hahaha :)

Toni Anderson said...

Looks like an interesting story. I love the initial one line description :)

Elise Warner said...

Great line for a teaser,Janis/Susan. Welcome to Not Your Usual Suspects.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Great story ideas! Congratulations on your upcoming publications.

Kathy Ivan said...

Welcome to Carina and Not Your Usual Suspects.

You are so right, ideas are all around us. Everywhere I look, my mind starts racing with ideas, scene, etc. Don't even get met started!

Great blog post.

Janis Patterson said...

Thanks to all of you who commented! I'm delighted to be a part of Carina and one of Not Your Usual Suspects.

I think that one of the major things that sets writers apart from other (I refuse to use the word 'normal') people is our special slant on things. Where other people see a man changing a flat tire, we see either a bank robber trying to get away or a man worrying that he will be late to propose to his girlfriend. Other people see actualities; we see possibilities. (Wish I'd thought to use that line in the blog!)

Anyway, thanks to everyone who came by and especially to those who commented. See you soon!

Shirley Wells said...

Welcome, Janis. The Hollow House sounds great and I look forward to reading it.

By the way, I love the teaser line. :)

Clare London said...

Congratulations on your new release :). I love fishing for ideas, I must say. I often watch a scene on TV or hear a snippet of conversation, and an idea is born :).

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