Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts

24 February 2018

How long should we write?
Bad Girl confronts the hard question


by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Is there an age at which we should stop writing novels? Philip Roth thought so. In his late seventies, he stopped writing because he felt his best books were behind him, and any future writing would be inferior. (His word.)

A colleague, Barbara Fradkin, brought this to my attention the other day, and it started a heated discussion.

Many authors have written past their prime. I can name two (P.D. James and Mary Stewart) who were favourites of mine. But their last few books weren’t all that good, in my opinion. Perhaps too long, too ponderous; plots convoluted and not as well conceived…they lacked the magic I associated with those writers. I was disappointed. And somewhat embarrassed.

What an odd reaction. I was embarrassed for my literary heroes, that they had written past their best days. And I don’t want that to happen to me.

The thing is, how will we know?

One might argue that it’s easier to know in these days with the Internet. Amazon reviewers will tell us when our work isn’t up to par. Oh boy, will they tell us.

But I want to know before that last book is released. How will I tell?

The Idea-Well

I’ve had 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories and 14 books published. I’m working on number 15. That’s 55 fiction plots already used up. A lot more, if you count the comedy. How many original plot ideas can I hope to have in my lifetime? Some might argue that there are no original plot ideas, but I look at it differently. In the case of authors who are getting published in the traditional markets, every story we manage to sell is one the publisher hasn’t seen before, in that it takes a different spin. It may be we are reusing themes, but the route an author takes to send us on that journey – the roadmap – will be different.

One day, I expect my idea-well will dry up.

The Chess Game You Can’t Win

I’m paraphrasing my colleague here, but writing a mystery is particularly complex. It usually is a matter of extreme planning. Suspects, motives, red herrings, multiple clues…a good mystery novel is perhaps the most difficult type of book to write. I liken it to a chess game. You have so many pieces on the board, they all do different things, and you have to keep track of all of them.

It gets harder as you get older. I am not yet a senior citizen, but already I am finding the demands of my current book (a detective mystery) enormous. Usually I write capers, which are shorter but equally meticulously plotted. You just don’t sit down and write these things. You plan them for weeks, and re-examine them as you go. You need to be sharp. Your memory needs to be first-rate.

My memory needs a grade A mechanic and a complete overhaul.

The Pain, the Pain

Ouch. My back hurts. I’ve been here four hours with two breaks. Not sure how I’m going to get up. It will require two hands on the desk, and legs far apart. Then a brief stretch before I can loosen the back so as not to walk like an injured chimp.

My wrists are starting to act up. Decades at the computer have given me weird repetitive stress injuries. Not just the common ones. My eyes are blurry. And then there’s my neck.

Okay, I’ll stop now. If you look at my photo, you’ll see a smiling perky gal with still-thick auburn hair. That photo lies. I may *look* like that, but…

You get the picture <sic>.

Writing is work – hard work, mentally and physically. I’m getting ready to face the day when it becomes too much work. Maybe, as I find novels more difficult to write, I’ll switch back to shorter fiction, my original love. If these short stories continue to be published by the big magazines (how I love AHMM) then I assume the great abyss is still some steps away.

But it’s getting closer.

How about you? Do you plan to write until you reach that big computer room in the sky?



Just launched! The B-Team 

They do wrong for all the right reasons, and sometimes it even works!
Available at Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and all the usual online suspects.

04 January 2017

A Flood of Ideas


by Robert Lopresti

The town where I live is usually pretty soggy, but this was the wettest October in recorded history.  Then, the first Saturday in November we got two and a half inches of rain.  And that was too much for the walls of my sixty-year old house.

I should explain that I live in a raised ranch, with what is known as a daylight basement.  And about half of that basement flooded on Saturday night.  Luckily, it was mostly the unfinished section.  We emptied at least seventy gallons out of there with wet vacs.
'
I collapsed around 1 AM but Terri stayed up most of the night.  When I got up to relieve her I found myself doing a mindless physical task while half awake.  And as some of you know, that is a perfect condition for a writer to start bouncing ideas off his skull.

* What would Shanks, my mystery writer character, do if his basement flooded?  Complain a lot, naturally.  It's what he does best.  But could he use that mess to solve a crime somehow?

* Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine just bought the third story in my "Bad Day" series, each of which is about a group of strangers in fictional Brune County getting tangled up in a crime.  What if my incompetent Brune County cop, Officer Kite, got called to a flooded house?

* What if a family turned off (or didn't repair) their sump pump, causing disaster to neighbors downhill?  A family feud begins...

* The cabinet in our back tool room got soaked and all the boxes of effluvia and paint cans had to be tossed.  What if a couple who was, say, renting a house, experienced the flooded basement and, in the process of cleaning up, found something they weren't supposed to see?

Hmm.  I like that one.  Maybe once things calm down I can wring out the computer keyboard and see what happens...

16 June 2016

The Mysterious Sources of Ideas


by Janice Law


I guess that the most frequent question writers get, along with recommendations for agents or publishers, is “Where do your ideas come from?”

In response, one waggish author is supposed to have replied that he ordered them wholesale.
Would that were true! A few lucky souls seem to produce an unending stream of good and marketable ideas. Consider the great 19th century great galley slaves of literature like George Sand, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope or Honore de Balzac. Nearer to hand, there’s our own Joyce Carol Oates or any of the thriller writers who, with a stable of helpers, adorn the best seller lists month after month. Clearly they rarely have to beg the Muse for ideas, and they write The End only to start afresh at Chapter One.

But I suspect that most writers are beset sooner or later with fears that another story, novel, article, or blog will not be forthcoming. Then it’s the writer’s turn to ask where ideas come from and how they can be persuaded to appear regularly.

 After forty years, I still have no definitive answer, but I do know some of the conditions that encourage inspiration. First, ideas in writing or painting, and I would guess the other arts as well, come from work. The genesis of art (or even pulp fiction) is the ultimate chicken and egg conundrum. Amateurs who say, I’d love to write but I don’t have any ideas, have it backwards. Writing produces ideas, which, in turn, produces writing.

Perhaps the writing that primes the pump, so to speak, need not be the final product. I’m always surprised at the massive volumes of famous writers’ correspondence. When did they have time to write those hundreds, sometimes thousands, of letters? And we’re not talking emails, either, but long screeds – and in pen and ink, too. Others wrote not just letters but kept journals or wrote reviews and columns and left memoirs. I suspect such productivity fed the novels, plays and stories, even as it took time from the main work.

Though crucial, writing itself is not enough. Books, the daily papers, and certain true crime TV shows have been useful for me. My newest novel, Homeward Dove, grew from a couple inches of print years ago in the London Telegraph. The Countess came from a couple pages in a children’s book about spies, while The Night Bus owed its inspiration to an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

But while the public works overtime for the crime writer, material and the practice of writing have to be combined with a certain sort of observational alertness. An example from my own career: at one point, I was doing features of a vaguely business nature for a local paper, things like  considering the then new proliferation of office greenery or explaining where stale bread went. I did this for a while and never had a problem with seeing publishable angles. Then the gig stopped. I don’t think I’ve had a single idea for a similar story since.

The reason, I suspect, is that composition requires another ingredient, and that is the enlistment of the subconscious, both in daylight hours to notice things and after working hours, to bring the unexpected together. Maybe clever people who can plot out a whole novel do not need this assistance, but I do, and I often find myself on the verge of sleep giving orders to whatever neurons are in charge: finish the scene at the bridge; resolve the conflict between Fletcher and the Leader, or simply, next five pages, please. Works for me.

After many years of writing, I have clearly semi-trained my subconscious. This is not to say all its ideas are brilliant or that the solution is always waiting for me the next morning. But the mysterious appearance of solutions does emphasize inspiration’s dependence on habit, on observation, and on work. The Muse, it turns out, has to be courted. Writing, writing, writing turns out to be the required offering for this capricious deity.






05 May 2014

Random Thoughts On Writing



Jan Grape
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON WRITING

by Jan Grape


Random thoughts running thru my head today. Both are good subjects, I hope. The first is, do you let an idea jell or percolate in your head before you start writing? I try to do that but have certainly been guilty of not letting the idea jell long enough. And to be honest, you can also take too long to let an idea come out of your head and onto the computer screen or on to the paper.

I don't think there's a specific amount of time that one should use. No right or wrong way here. Sometimes a story demands that you sit yourself down and write while the idea is fresh on your mind or when the muse says, do it, just do it now.

It's always possible you'll have an idea, maybe make some notes so you won't forget it. Then you set it aside. Perhaps you might need to do some research on the subject. On the location or on the character's life or on some part of the idea. Somewhere your creative muse says, whoa, slow down here, we need to get this right. Or maybe you've written about half-way through and you're not exactly sure where to go. Place it on the back burner and let it percolate. Most likely it will come spilling out when you least expect it, but it will solve your problem.

Most writers I know, write both novels and short stories, but I once was editing an anthology and asked an Edgar winner if he would write a short story to be included.  He declined by saying, sorry I only have one idea a year and I need to use that for my next novel. It was a strange response but perhaps it's true.  I don't recall seeing many if any short stories from him through the years, but he does write terrific novels.

Personally I seem to do better when I have a deadline so I don't let my story or idea simmer too long. And I have on occasion had a story come pouring out and finishing a decent short story in a day.  I do try to set it aside then and jell at least a day or two then reread before I edit.  If I have the time, I think I'm mentioned before that I like to let a story sit for three or four days before I start on editing or rewriting. But each writer does things differently and each story or book demands different actions.
I do think it's a good thing to be easy going and do whatever works for you in the long run.

****

My other random thoughts are about mentoring aspiring writers. How many of you have done that? I enjoy doing it and actually do it every year for my Sisters-in-Crime local chapter. We have an event every year in May which is to honor our good friend, Barbara Burnett Smith who had a fatal accident in 2005. Barbara enjoyed mentoring and her son, W.D. Smith set up this event with our Heart of Texas Chapter. The authors who agree to participate, are sent the name of an aspiring writer. The author contacts the writer and the writer sends along 500-750 words of their work in progress. A very short synopsis is also included.

The author reads and critiques and spends as much time as the author wishes. Then on the scheduled date for the S-in-C meeting and event, the author and writer meet. The regular meeting occurs and the participants are recognized. Usually a portion of the aspiring writer's work is read. Also one author is usually chosen as being an outstanding mentor. At the end of the meeting, the mentor and mentee have a few minutes to discuss the mentees work and hopes. The author gives the aspiring writer a couple of their books and autographs them.

One major thing I enjoy about being a mentor is when I read the new writer's work, I can see myself with my early work. I can usually see where they might be going wrong and do my best to set them on the right path. However, you might find an outstanding aspiring writer and decide you want to introduce them to your editor or agent. That hasn't happened to me yet, but I've had a couple come close and hope I'll see them published soon.

I also enjoy the idea of giving back or paying it forward is really the right term. I had so many wonderful writers help me when I was getting started and I remember telling one that I'd never be able to repay him. He said, don't ever even think about it. But to pay it forward. That he'd had great help when he started and someone had told him to pay it forward. It was something that he always tried to do. And it's something I always try to do. It's such a wonderful feeling to see the growth of an aspiring writer and know that you were able to help them get to complete their goal.


Happy Spring, Happy May, and Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Like my partner in crime, Fran, always says, until we meet next time take good care of yourself.

03 October 2012

Peculiar


by Robert Lopresti

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in this very spot that I had an idea for a story about blackmail, but the idea refused to resolve itself into a plot.  I spent many hours riding around on my bike, the PlotCycle (TM), pondering the little seed but it has still refused to germinate into a full-blown story.  It was like I had a pile of flesh and no skeleton to hang it on.

But something peculiar happened last week.

I was reading someone else's story -- in fact, it was "The General," by our own Janice Law in Mystery Writers of America Presents Vengeance.  A fine story it is, by the way, and I recommend it.

But my point is that a few pages in I suspected I knew how the story was going to turn out.  And, of course, I was completely wrong.  Which is fine; I like surprises.

However, by the time Janice had finished unwinding her story, I had unwound mine.  I had the entire plot for a story in my head.  Usually when I get an idea for a story I just jot it down in my pocket notebook, but I felt so strongly about this one that I hurried over to my computer, poked the hamster to start spinning the hard drive, and wrote an outline.  I even wrote the gutwrenching last paragraphs (oh, you'll weep.  Trust me.)  Now all I need is time to write the damned thing.

From original concept to fully developed plot: less than an hour.

Meanwhile, remember my blackmail story?

From original concept to fully developed plot: more than a month and still an unfinished mess.

Which leads me to my thesis statement: The human mind is one peculiar vegetable.

19 September 2012

Lights bulbs, twelve for ten cents


by Robert Lopresti

So, let's say you're a writer.  One day you introduce yourself to someone and that person asks what you do.  Being an honest sort you say "I'm a writer." 

Nine times out of ten, that's fine.  But the tenth time you will see the face of your new acquiantance brighten wonderfully.  "I have a great idea for a novel/story/sccreenplay!"

Uh oh

Here's your best move: Point over his or her shoulder and say: "Look!  A silver-crested wookpecker!   They're supposed to be extinct.  I have to call the Audubon Society!"

 Then run like hell. Because this conversation is not going to go well.  Let's assume you stck around long enough for our  newcomer to explain his story.  One of three possibiities will likely occur.

1.  The idea is terrible.  Well, most are, mine included.

2.  The idea is good, but not one you could do anything with.  Most writers are inherently suited to write about the ideeas they come up with themselves.  Problem is if you tell your new friend that he/she will think this is an excuse you came up with because you realy think the idea belongs in category 1.

3.  The idea is good and one you could work with.  (Hey, it could happen.)  You tell acquiantance this and the person suggests you write it and spit the profits fifty-fifty with the person who did the hard work, i.e. thinking up the idea.

I have now managed to sneak up on myy point, catching it unaware, I suspect.  Here it is:  Ideas are a dime a dozen.

I know that isn't a popular point of view, but consider this example:

A boy discovers he is a wizard and goes off to wizard school.

Is that a billion dollar idea?  Nah..  What J.K. Rowling did with the idea is what made her richer than Queen Elizabeth.

In other words, the idea is not the precious pearl.  It is the grain of sand the pearl grows around.,  As the philosophers would say it is necessary but not sufficient..

I am pondering this because there is a grain of sand rolling around in my brain, irritating the heck out my cerebellum and medulla oblongata.

Basically, it is a new concept in blackmail.  (Suddenly I feel like I'm in the marketing department.  Exciting Breakthrough In Extortion Technology!  Ask your victim if it's right for you.)

So far the idea has not developed into a plot.  The pearl has refused to grow.

Now, let's consider another idea.

A young woman is brutally attacked by a son of power and privilege.  Her only parent seeks justice and, failing that, revenge.

That happens to be the plot of idea behind two of the best stories I have read this year.

The more litigious among you may now be thinking: Two stories with the same idea?  Author B stole from Author A!  Plagiarism! 

Well, yes and no.  I am fairly sure that Author B stole the idea from Author A but I don't think there will be a lawsuit.  Because in this case Author B is Author A.   Both stories were written by Brendan DuBois.

"His Daughter's Island," ( Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2012) is the story of Zach Ford, a mild-mannered accountant in a small town in Maine.  His beloved daughter goes off to a party at the home of a millionaire and dies.  The millionaire's son is whisked out of the country, far from the possibility of justice.

"The Final Ballot," (Mystery Writers of America presents Vengeance) tells us about Beth, whose daughter suffers life-threatening injuries at the hands of the son of a senator and presidential candidate.  The candidate's fix it man offers her a couple of choices, but can she get what she wants?


 They are both excellent stories but I prefer Ballot, for two reasons.  In Island the revenge begins on the first page and stays fairly static throughout, but in Ballot the revenge comes late in the story, in a non-violent twist that nonetheless takes one's breath away.

Second, in Ballot the odds against the protagonist are even higher.   

Beth knew in a flash that she was outgunned.  This man before her had traveled the world, knew how to order wine from a meny, wore the best clothes and had gone to the best schools, and was prominent in a campaign to elect a senator from Georgia as the next president of the United States.

She put the tissue back in her purse.   And her?  She was under no illusions.  A dumpy woman from a small town outside Manchester who had barely graduated from high school and was now leasing a small beauty shop in a strip mall.

But my main point here is to demonstrate how a talented writer can produce two very different, but equally fine stories from the same idea.

And speaking of ideas, I wanted to tell you some more about that blackmail concept--

What do you mean, you saw a silver-crested woodpecker?  We're indoors!  Get back here!

23 August 2012

Time with Art




 by Deborah Elliott-Upton

What's better than spending time with people you admire for their skills? Last week I had a leisurely lunch with a creative group of women. The assortment of talent ran the spectrum of the genres in the writing arena: one was a playwright, one a singer/songwriter, another a novel-length young adult writer, a children's author who handles novels and picture books, a historical fiction writer, a romance writer and me, the lone mystery author. (For some unknown to me reason, although my area in the state is known for its abundance of writers, few choose to write mystery.)

An eclectic gathering, we spoke of our current works in progress. A few won't discuss their work until it is finished, several only with their personal critique group members and a couple said it depended on which work at which specific time.

I am one that falls into the latter choice. At the beginning of  project, I tend to talk more about the basic idea with a few close individuals. This is more my way of seeing if the idea holds attention with the public as much as with me.

At that point, I tend to mull over the details of the plot and allow the characters to come to me with their own viewpoint. They need to talk to me!

Writing after this is usually kept more to myself until I am ready for someone else with a critical and unbiased eye to take a look.

This group -- like so many others in the writing community -- is less about stroking egos and more about supporting other artists in their artistic endeavors. Talking about writing to us is like finding a lifeline in a stormy sea.

Life hands out rejections like election ads during a campaign year: too many seem to bombard us at once. Many ads and rejections are too negative and lean on the nasty side. Negative remarks whether they are meant to received as such or not can bruise talent. I've heard each artist must suffer to find the truth in his work. Maybe. But I don't believe they must be beaten beyond recognition. Spread some of that random kindness around. Compliments are inexpensive and means much to the receiver.

Writers gathering to talk about writing is uplifting. It's good to hear what others are facing in their journey.

I enjoy spending time with people "new" to discovering their talents. Nothing is as contagious as passion.

The young playwright is reading every play she can find and attending avant-garde theatre productions. The singer is performing some new songs at a small town cafe. The young adult writer sings backup in the group. They're also collaborating on new songs together. The historian is finishing her novel and ready to take the next step to find a publisher. The children's author is finishing a six book series. The romance writer is new to writing and is fresh with anticipation. I advised her she is my newest protege and she didn't even laugh. (I like that in a writer!) I'm working on a hush-hush project I'm not ready to talk about to the masses. Soon though.

We laughed as we discussed introverts and extroverts and how even our small grouping was a combination of both. Writers don't come in one size fits all.

By the end of the lunch, we were full -- not just of the delicious food served (our singer is also a caterer -- lucky us!), but also of eagerness to get back to our own writings. Our own genres. Our own art.

Time spent with art and artists is never dull and always so very worthwhile. I think I just may mull on that thought for a few more days.

07 November 2011

Ideas R Us


Jan Grape by Jan Grape

Almost every time I talk to a group about writing and get to the Q and A portion, I’m asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I have a couple of stock answers which usually get a laugh. One is: “I belong to ‘Ideas of the Month Club’ and they send me ideas once a month.” (I think I stole that from mystery writer, Les Roberts.) The other is: “I just go to “Ideas R Us” and buy one when I need it.” (Am sure I stole that from someone, too.)

My own real answer is: Ideas are in the air, all you have to do is pull one down when you need one.

Deadly Allies III wrote two short stories that were inspired by songs. One story was “Scarlett Fever” in the Deadly Allies II anthology and my inspiration (idea) came from a song by Kenny Rogers, titled “Scarlett Fever.” In the song, this guy kept going to a club to watch a dancer named Scarlett and fell in love with her. One night he goes to the club and she’s not there anymore and he’s devastated. My idea was: what happened to this girl? Did she really leave for brighter lights as the club manager says or did something bad happen to her?

My second story is “Deathbed Confession” based on a song by a local Texas writer, Thomas Michael Riley. I can’t really say much about the song without giving away some of the story but it will be published next spring in ACWL Presents: Murder Here, Murder There. This will be the first Jenny Gordon, C.J. Gunn, story in several years and it was nice to find out how the female private investigators were doing. Nice to know that G & G Investigations still is in business. Murder Here, Murder There is the second anthology written by the members of the American Crime Writers League and is co-edited by R. Barry Flowers and myself and published by Twilight Times.

Another story was inspired by a name. A friend of mine, writes a newsy-about-town column in a local weekly newspaper and she writers under the nom de plume of “Ima Snoop.” I thought the name was funny and asked permission to use it in a story called, “The Crimes of Miss Abigail Armstrong.” That story is in the first anthology, from Twilight Times, written by ACWL members and co-edited by R. Barri Flowers and Jan Grape.

My Austin policewoman series was inspired by taking a ten week class, Austin Citizen’s Police Academy training which was offered by the Austin Police Department. In these classes we learned about different departments such as fraud, firearms, robbery homicide, SWAT, etc. After the training was over, I was involved in the alumni association and went out to the academy on numerous occasions to assist in the new cadet training. Training offers set up scenarios using alumni graduates as bad guys and the cadets would have to participate and discover the crime or non-crime committed. Cadets learn how to use their computers, the patrol car’s siren, their walkie-talkies and to quickly access a situation and act accordingly. That was fun because I got to role-play as a bad guy, which soon led to a voice I kept hearing in my head. Fortunately, I began writing Zoe Barrow’s story in Austin City Blue, published in 2000 by Five Star and wasn’t hauled off in a strait-jacket by the guys from the funny farm.

My latest novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, came from seeing a little girl with ears that stuck out like open taxi doors, who was in a bookstore with her grandfather. She wanted to buy a magazine, but gramps said they couldn’t afford it. Somehow that little girl stayed in my mind and eventually became the sixteen year old, Cory Purvis, in that book.

Just yesterday, a friend asked me to do some research on sleepwalking for her. Who knows– I may come up with a character who kills when sleepwalking or so he/she claims.

Today I read a short article in my Sunday newspaper about people selling lollipops which have been licked by children with chickenpox. The buyers are people who don’t want to vaccinate their children but want them to catch the childhood disease. People could go online and look for: 'Find a Pox Party In Your Area' the article said. Cost was $50 a pox-licked lollipop. The sellers are selling these all over the country, sending the candy by mail. Sending diseases and viruses by mail is a federal crime. So some arrest have been made and prosecutors warning parents. Can you imagine giving your child a lollipop, supposedly with chickenpox virus on it? What if it were AIDS virus, or hepatitis? What if it were a more deadly lollipop like Anthrax or something similar? That news article idea sounds like a great plot for a book and I’ll bet we’ll see that used in one very soon.

Newspapers, TV news reports, TV shows, songs, books or stories by other writers, something read on the internet all can give you ideas. So in my humble opinion, ideas are everywhere and all you have to do is pull one down. As a last resort, just go to the mall to IDEAS R US and buy an awesome idea.

28 September 2011

Missed Connections


by Robert Lopresti

Missed Connection 1 by ChildOfAtom
Missed Connection 1, a photo by ChildOfAtom on Flickr.

You’ve probably seen the ads in weekly newspapers or certain websites. They generally go something like this:

Where: Joe’s Grill. When: Last Tuesday night. You: The beautiful woman in a red dress. Me: The guy being punched by his girlfriend for looking at beautiful women. I was bleeding too hard to give you my phone number. Want to meet?

This is a story about a missed connection. (But I swear I was nowhere near Joe’s Grill that night.) Bear with me. We will get to crime fiction eventually.

They want your blood

A few years ago my siblings and I were asked to participate in a national medical survey. The object was to determine whether certain conditions had a genetic link.

And we were happy to do so. It was no biggy: just a blood draw. In fact, the longest part of the procedure was reading the list of cautions and warnings that the researchers provided in the name of fully informing their human subjects. Mostly they wanted to tell us not to expect instant cures to come out of the study.

But one paragraph fascinated me. I don’t recall the exact language bu it amounted to this: If it turns out you aren’t related to the people you think are your family, we aren’t going to tell you.

I was most amused that they found it necessary to plan for this circumstance. Very logical, really.

So how does this relate to missed connections? Or crime fiction?

What’s bred in the blood comes out in the bone


Doug Allyn has a story in the November issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and a fine story it is. “Bloodline” is about a fourth generation banker who participates in a study much like the one I was involved in, but the doctor in charge did not follow the rule above. In fact, he took gleeful pleasure in telling the protagonist that he was not the biological son of his wealthy (legal) father.

(By the way, this is the premise of the story, so I am not revealing salient plot points.)

I had mixed feelings as I read the story. Yes, it was a very enjoyable read, but I had the maddening sense of – you guessed it – Missed Connections. Why hadn’t I seen that paragraph of legalese as a story idea?

Not that I would have come up with the same story as Allyn. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought of any story at all. What bugged me was that it never even occurred to me to LOOK for a story idea there.

Go fish


When people ask where I get my ideas I usually reply with a parable:

Once a traveler was walking along the riverbank. He saw a man standing by the river with a pole in his hand, a baited hook on a line and the line in the water. The traveler noticed a creel full of trout.

“Gosh,” he said, “where do you get your fish?”


We all live by that river. Some of us have developed our equipment and some of us haven’t. I think mine is in pretty good condition.

But dagnabit, that was a big juicy fish that swam by and I never even knew it was there. Makes me wonder if the next Harry Potter idea was right in front of me today while I was trying to decide between a chocolate chip cookie or a snickerdoodle.

If it was and someone else grabbed it I hope they don’t tell me where they got their idea.