I decided to start this series of posts because writers get a lot of questions from people and one of the most common questions is – where do your ideas come from. Every writer’s answer will be different and an interesting note is that a group of writers could be shown on photograph as a writing prompt and each writer would have a different story idea. And even if two writers had the same story idea, their story would be unique to her and to her genre. As you can tell by now, this isn’t an easy question to answer. But I think (I hope so) that you’ll enjoy the explanation of my process. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.
Luckily a story idea sparked just the other day for a series I am in the process of creating and because of that I can’t provide too many details. But I think I can share just enough for you to understand how this writer’s mind works. Shall we begin?
On New Year’s Eve I took my 13 year old Shih-Tzu (I hope she’ll forgive me for sharing her age) out to do a little shopping. We went to the local pet shop to buy food and bird seed. She greeted a bunch of people and she was lavished with attention from another Shih-Tzu mom who wanted to know where Susie went from grooming. After we packed the car I decided to take Susie for a walk over at an open space in town that used to house a state mental hospital. The property, which is over 180 acres, used to be a state run psychiatric hospital and now is owned by the town and is being re-purposed. But the project isn’t complete and there are still abandoned buildings on the property such as the one below.
Let me just say now that there is a creepy history to the property. The stories are endless since the buildings that housed and cared for thousands of patients were connected buy underground tunnels. Let that sink into your mind for a bit. Get the picture? Creepy. Anyway, the property is slowly being turned into a space where residents can walk, run, bike, horseback ride and there are open fields for sports. It’s also the place for concerts and art shows. But for a writer, like me, it’s also a place for ideas.
Back to the walk. We passed by the building above as we walked along the sidewalk but Susie wanted to get closer to the building (several of the buildings have warning signs to stay away for safety reasons but this building didn’t have a sign) and I tried to distract her, after all we had a walk to continue on with. She wasn’t budging. She wanted to get closer to the building. Now my imagination is kicking in. Did she hear something? Smell something? Sense something? I allowed her to continue forward and she sniffed her way up the steps and around the side of the building. I let her continue on while my mind started turning over a story question – what if….and that led me to an idea for a second book in a different series I’m outlining now. What if she (my protagonist) is out walking her dog at a similar location to Fairfield Hills and the dog leads her to a dead body and it’s the first of several as a serial killer emerges. Boom! Story idea!
That is how writers get ideas. From innocent walks with dogs, from ordinary trips to the grocery store to the nightly news. There’s a story idea practically in every thing a writer sees, hears, or experiences.
I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know what sparks your imagination.
We’re starting the week off a little colder and a little snowy. That’s right, it’s beginning to feel like winter here in Connecticut and by the middle of the week the temperatures will nose dive and there will be no turning back, winter has settled in to stay. And with the weather finally turning it’s a great time to curl up with a good book. I’m sure we all have a pretty tall stack of TBR (to be read) that we can choose our next read from and doesn’t that stack keep growing no matter how many books we pull out to read? 🙂 My stack is a combination of mysteries and romances and women’s fiction. I enjoy reading across genres and sub-genres but presently I’m not writing across genres (that’s a different post). When people find out that I am a writer the next question always is “what kind of book is it” and my answer is “mystery”. I’ve been asked a few times why I write mysteries and today that’s what this post is about. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.
For today’s post I want to focus in on the type of book I’ve written – a cozy culinary mystery and what draws me to this genre.
Cozy mysteries foster a sense of familiarity for the reader. Even though the story is usually set around a murder, there is a comfort in diving into the book. You’re visiting old friends and the town in which they call home. A skilled writer can keep the characters fresh by allowing them to grow with each book but yet keep them true to the character that they are. Relationships between the characters are often tested and strengthened during the course of the investigation because the sleuth is investigating on her own. This brings me to another reason why I’m drawn to cozy mysteries. The sleuth is usually an average woman who finds herself in extraordinary situations forcing her to step outside her comfort zone in order to find the real killer. I love that she has to become fearless, take on people who make it very clear that she’s sticking her nose in someone else’s business, that she’ll have to fight for her life at some point. As I flip each page of the book the sleuth becomes stronger and more determined.
Murder is a horrible crime, the most serious because a life is taken and at the end of the book the murderer has been revealed and justice will prevail. Sometimes in a cozy mystery a bad person is murder but he deserves justice also. The wrapping up of the murder reminds us that good can triumph over bad and that every life is precious. At the end of a cozy mystery typically the sense of normalcy that was present at the beginning of the book returns and it’s a reminder that life must go on, albeit different but life continues and we need to be a part of it.
I enjoy cooking and baking so I naturally gravitated towards cozies that feature food. I recall that the two first culinary mysteries I read were Joanne Pence’s Angie Amalfi series and Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series. I’ve read every book in those series and loved them. Food is such an intregal part of our lives, we share food with loved ones and friends during the everydays in our lives to the most joyous or the saddest days in our lives. Food celebrates, nourishes, comforts so to weave it through a mystery where there is so much uncertainty it feels right to me.
I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know what genre of books you like to read and what draws you to them. If you don’t have a question, don’t be shy – say “hi” in the comments section!
Here we are starting a new week.
And that leads me into the question of the day – what are you working on at the moment? I have a full cup of coffee so lets start chatting.
I am currently working on the second book in my cozy mystery series. Since it’s a work-in-progress I can’t say too much about it. I can tell you that I’m about 30,000 words in. I did get stuck a few times because I had to stop writing book 2 in order to edit book 1 so I could get it back to my agent. Once I turned book 1 back in to my agent I dove back into book 2 only to be pulled out of it because book 1 came back for a final proofread before sending it out to editors. When I was able to settle back into book 2 I was a little disconnected from it and it took me several days to get back into the groove. I found my groove when I wrote a scene that wasn’t in my outline (yes, I outlined this book and it’s broken down by chapters and scenes). I fell in love with the scene, I fell in love with my amateur sleuth again and I was excited to continue writing the book.
I’m also brainstorming another series. Since I’m committed to writing book 2 in my series I can’t take much time away from it because I want to finish the first draft in a few weeks and I don’t want to have to go through the whole settling back into the book that I’ve struggled with over the past few months. So I’m just jotting down notes for the other series as they come to me.
I’m also working on a hat. On the heels of the success of my nephew’s baby blanket I’ve decided to knit a hat for myself. To be honest, the blanket was much easier than this stupid hat but I’m determined to finish it and wear the hat one day very soon.
I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know what you’re working on at the moment. If you don’t have a question, don’t be shy – say “hi” in the comments section!
Here we are starting a new week and in a few days it will be December. Wow! 2016 flew right by. As we enter the last month of the year I’ve been hearing the question “where has the year gone” a lot and the response is typically “no idea”. It’s a shame that so many people feel that the year has passed by in a blur and that each year it gets faster and faster. Maybe that’s because of our lifestyle today. Everything is immediate, life moves at a warp speed and we’re always connected. I can see how life passes by in a blur. But I don’t think that’s the way we should live our lives. And that leads me into the question of the day – what do you like to do when you’re not writing. I have a full cup of coffee so lets start chatting.
I love to exercise. Yes, you read correctly. I enjoy a good workout. It clears my mind, sometimes helps me breakthrough a story block and keeps me healthy. Talk about a win-win. As I type this I’m very, very sore from a Cardio Leg Workout by Cathe Friedrich. Ouch would be an understatement and I’m cursing the flight of stairs in our house today. One of the reasons why working out is so important is because I love to cook and bake. When I’m not in my office writing you can usually find me in my kitchen where I can get lost in a recipe.I sometimes will work out a story problem when I’m cooking dinner and that’s why there’s a pad and paper always out on the counter for quick notes.
I enjoy reading and I’m never not in the middle of a book with a stack to-be-read books waiting. I got hooked early on with reading and the library was my second home. I read many genres but mysteries are my favorite. I read both print and e-books. I’m currently reading a Jenn McKinlay Library Lover’s mystery and my newest purchase is If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins.
I also enjoy counted cross-stitch and I’m currently working on a sampler and I’ve gotten back into knitting and my current pattern is very frustrating, though I know I will prevail and be wearing that hat someday. 🙂
I love hanging with my pups. Whether it’s getting down on the floor to play tug of war or going on walks, the three of us always have a good time.
I think all the things I do when I’m not writing help me when I am writing. These activities allow me to clear my mind, allow my subconscious to work and refill my creative well so that when I return to my computer and work-in-progress document I have something to write.
I’m going to finish my coffee now and if there is anything you’d like to know about how I spend my non-writing time please feel free to ask or if you’d like to share what you do in your free time please do! If you don’t have a question, don’t be shy – say “hi” in the comments section!
With my manuscript back with my agent and the submission process in progress I’ve dove back into the second book of my series. I did hit a wall last week because I was sick so there wasn’t much writing done. However, I did manage to write about 6,000 words. So I think I did pretty good considering all I wanted to do was sleep. Today’s question is do I listen to music when I write. I have a full cup of coffee, so lets start chatting.
The answer is a simple “no”. I cannot listen to music and write. Music distracts me so I never have it on when I’m writing or doing any other work. I know some of my co-workers at my day job listen to music but I can’t do it. There’s something about the lyrics, the rhythm, I don’t know. And I don’t have a play list for my manuscripts. I really don’t have the time to pick out songs that represent the story or the characters. I do sometimes use a song as inspiration for a story idea or character or even a scene.
I do usually have a television on in the background turned to a cable news program. Hearing the reporter’s voices in the background doesn’t distract me. I guess spending so many years working at the day job I’ve gotten used to background chatter and having the television on provides tat for me at home. There are some mornings when I get up very early and I go into my study to sit and write for a few minutes and there’s no noise at all. I can’t say that my final product is any better, I don’t know. It’s just a different experience.
I did receive a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones this year for my birthday and I used them when there was a lot of noise outside when neighbors were mowing their lawns or when I needed to write and my husband was home watching television. I love the headphones. Every writer should have a pair.
Each writer has her own routine that works for them. It’s good to try something different, if another writer does XYZ and it sounds like it may work then give it a go. What’s the worse that can happen? The one thing writers must always do is to be true to themselves and their creative process.
I’m going to finish my coffee now and if there is anything else you’d like to know about how I name or create my characters please ask. If you don’t have a question, don’t be shy – say “hi” in the comments section!