If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Story Fodder

by Linda Rodriguez

Coalition II by Kevin Peterson
I encountered this photo of a painting, Coalition II by Kevin Peterson, on Twitter, and I suddenly have new stories that all seem to want to become novels tumbling around in my brain. This is the way seeds of books are sown.

People always ask me how I get my ideas at signings and readings. I am often tempted to ask them in return how they keep from stumbling over ideas all the time, except that I know that's not kind and not fair. They're not used to recognizing creative ideas when they have them. I'll bet most of those people would also be struck by this image of girl, bear, raccoon, and crow heading out on a journey, pilgrimage, or quest. They might think, “Wow! What a striking picture!” It might recur to them again several times after they first see it, and they think, “Yes, for some reason, that picture is really memorable.” But they probably wouldn't sit with it for the minute or two it would take for questions to start bubbling up—Who is the girl? She must be remarkable or extraordinary in some way to be able to bond with these animals. How did she come by her animal companions or protectors or helpers or guides? Where are they going with such confidence and/or determination? Why is the young girl alone with only these animals? Can they communicate with each other, and if so, how? Is she going into some danger to need a huge, ferocious bear as a guardian? They seem to walking through a rundown urban area with graffiti and/or warning symbols of some kind, possibly magical, painted all over every available wall or surface. What kind of world are they in?

As you can see, it doesn't take me long for my imagination to start running away with me. I suspect this is the hallmark of the writer. We have never put a muzzle on our imaginations. We may, after long practice and much learning, put the leash of skill and control on our imaginations, but we've never muzzled them, and we use only the thinnest of leashes with the lightest of hands, merely enough to help guide that wild imagination but never enough to break or stifle it.

I won't write any of the books I can feel taking root within me any time in the near future. I have learned to let the brand-new seeds settle in and grow a bit while I finish up the projects that are already begun or committed to. That's part of being a professional, and the beauty of that technique is that these seeds will pull on other bits and pieces of images or anecdotes or people that have earlier struck sparks and been consigned to the compost pit that is my unconscious. Some of them will accrete to these seeds or feed off them or become absorbed by them until something exciting and delicious or frightening or fascinating or horrible will grow from them into the complex idea for a novel, and I will start to make notes and delve into possible characters (which are often among the first signs that sthe composite that has developed is ready for some conscious work).

It can be a striking image or a line of poetry or a line from a song or a piece of conversation overheard in a coffee shop or doctor's office or a stranger getting on or off a bus or almost anything. My unconscious mind is like Krook's crowded rag-and-bone shop in Bleak House by Dickens—bits of flotsam and jetsam mounded in pyramids and melting into each other through time until they catch fire through spontaneous combustion. I think people would like for us writers to tell them we have special techniques for generating ideas. Maybe, we sit down with a special computer program and tell it exactly what we want for our newest novel, and the program delivers us a neat new concept for a book. Then we can tell them the special vendor from which they can buy this program, and they, too, can receive a guaranteed new novel outline. Instead, we have this ragged, messy junk shop that occasionally catches fire for us—if we put enough bits and pieces in and some extra thought and work along the way—and then, when it does burst into flames, they'll go out almost instantly if we don't work very hard at nurturing the flame and protecting it and feeding it. I think we're often a huge disappointment to them, and I can understand it. I'm often a big disappointment to myself, as well.

Still, today I found a potent image to tuck into my rag-and-bone shop, one within which I can practically smell the dormant flames just looking for a good spot to hide in and smolder away for a while. So I'll deposit it within and think about it now and then, raising more questions and pondering possible answers, while it seeks allies of combustibles among the other denizens of my jumble heap of a mind. And, quite possibly, one day, I'll see smoke rising from within and rush to fan it into life and spend many months or years of my life laboring on it in order to eventually produce a novel.

That's how this writer gets her ideas.


Jim Jackson said...

We can argue nature/nurture when it comes to creativity, but I suggest much of what we react to is determined by our training. I'll use birds as an example. I've been watching birds as an amateur for forty years, and I notice them. While watching TV, I'll notice yellow-rumped warblers picking small bugs off the lilac bush (as I did yesterday during the Packers' game). I'll notice birds overhead while I am driving. I'll notice bird song when I walk or jog. By years of paying attention to birds I automatically notice them much more than "normal" people.

So too with stories. Those, like you, who tell them, who learn to shape them into compelling yarns, are aware of them no matter where you are. As you say, the tough part is determining which stories to tell.

~ Jim

Linda Rodriguez said...

Jim, you're so right. I spent a lot of my growing-up years in Oklahoma with my grandmother and other relatives who lived with a strong living relationship to the wild world. Now, I live in a city and am always noticing the wild creatures living there with us. It amazes me that most city dwellers including my husband, just don't see the golden eagles circling above, the redtail hawks, the many songbirds, the foxes, raccoons, possums, even the coyotes that show at night scavenging the garbage of the day in parking lots and unsecured trash cans. It's what we've been taught or trained ourselves to notice.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I'm always collecting ideas from various places. I have an image of an older woman from a a newspaper picture sitting on the edge of a sidewalk as a parade goes by half-hearted waving a small flag with an unhappy look on her face. Originally, I was going to use it in a painting, but I don't paint anymore. Why did she look unhappy. Was she in pain
from sitting there? Did the parade bring back memories that were unhappy ones? Did she never want to come in the first place, but someone insisted she be there?

Once years ago I was at one of the Kent State Folk festivals which had different events during the day leading up to the concert.I went in to a large room where there was a square dance going on and noticed a young woman with two small children looking longingly around
the room between sets when guys approached different women and asked them to dance. She was never asked. I'm going to use that in a short story or maybe in one of my books someday.

It can be something as simple as a conversation in a restaurant, as you mentioned. One day while I was waiting for my sister, I heard the woman in the next booth say, "She raises pugs." The other woman asked "What are they?" and the conversation was included in my next book for no other reason than to introduce a character who raises pugs in the book.

The suicide I found hanging in the woods one morning on my walk, ended up in a short story where the dead man was really murdered and made to look like a suicide.

I have so many of these little bits and pieces waiting to be put down on paper. Some are photos of people, some are bits and pieces taken from the newspaper that I can work into a story, and some are just memories of what I've seen or heard.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, yes, that's the way it works. Not a neat or pretty process.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, maybe not, but it's nice to be able to have those ideas waiting for us.

Margaret Turkevich said...

They call the wind Mariah..

and that's the name of this girl, Mariah, who lives in a remote area with a grandparent and her best friends, a raccoon and a crow. The bear comes along for the ride.

Very Flavia de Luce meets Heidi.

I'm always spinning stories in my head and I've trained myself to write them down in a notebook where I'll find them again.

Linda Rodriguez said...


And see, it's funny. Your story is nothing like any of the stories it started for me. The miracles of imagination.