Tag Archive | Inspiration

Wright Place, Wrong Bed Inspired by a Writers’ Retreat

Two years ago, my chapter of RWA hosted a retreat for whoever could make it to a plantation south of New Orleans. We’d done it in years past at another plantation upriver, and it was time for a change. I’m not sure it was a good change, but the trip did inspire a story that’s will be published by The Wild Rose Press.

We began our evening at the plantation by finding our rooms, which were scattered all over the place. Some were in the big house. Others were in what was probably once the caretaker’s plain home, and still another group were in an elevated modern house. We settled in, saying hello to our roommates and getting the lay of the land, which included a few rooms with sketchy latches on the doors. When we convened in the former chapel turned dining hall and bar, we all had a tidbit to tell about our rooms. Some were happy. Others were rather less so. Eh, I thought. We’re way down where no one cares.

We forgot all about our rooms when a certain friend of mine pointed out the four rather handsome men enjoying dinner at the next table over. They all had suntanned or sunburned necks, fishing shirts, and boat shoes. They were four men on a weekend away from whatever, whether it be wives, girlfriends, bad jobs, or a family reunion. My friend mentioned something. My brain got to twirling, and a little while later, I mapped out a plot.

This is where I admit to having more ideas for stories than I have time to write them. So, Wright Place, Wrong Bed languished into skeleton plot land until I finished some other projects, moved from New Orleans, and set up a new life in Florida. Yet, I completed it, and now I’m dealing with edits. 

If there’s a message to this story, I would say that it is to look for inspiration wherever you go and to keep with your ideas. They will eventually bear fruit.

“I have an idea for a plot.” Dreaded words to an author.

About a month ago, I took a weekend trip with some friends. In our long ride in the car in which I had no responsibility for driving, we took some time to catch up on what was going on in each others lives, shared some insights into daily issues, and then the sentence came out which made me cringe.

“I have an idea for a plot. Here it is.” She launched into her idea, which came from a real incident in her life. 

I listened, not having any idea how I would turn this into a story. It was only the description of one meeting. At least it was a good one, where the hero and heroine would meet. My friend had one other requirement–that the characters have sex on the hood of a car. In my head I was thinking, “Um, I can’t do that.” 

Except, you can’t say that when you are sitting beside your very good friend. Great friend. Life long, always been there for you friend. Yes, we are honest enough with each other that I could have given her the “that’s nice” line, but for reasons I won’t discuss here, I was needy, wanting real in depth round and round go get ’em conversations. So, I said, “That’s a nice idea, but it takes more than that to write a story. We need to know who the characters are, and one of the ways to do that is by answering some questions about the characters.”

Here is where I pulled from one of the best online classes that I’ve ever taken. Quilting 101: Patchworking the Perfect Plot with Suzanne Johnson. It covered plot arcs, the threads of the story (the individual character arcs), and so much more. All the parts she showed us stuck with me, but I focused on the character dossier. 

Let me tell you a bit about Suzanne first. She’s the author of Royal Street, River Road, and Elysian Fields, a gritty, but delightful story set in post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s great urban fantasy with some amazing characters that jump off the page. I was instantly in love with Jean Lafitte. She also writes as Susannah Sandlin. You can find all about her at Preternatura

Back to the main story. I pulled from Suzanne’s character dossier questions as we rode along the interstate. As i was going from memory, I didn’t cover all the questions, but I got the big ones. Honestly, a writer needs to know what a character’s childhood was like and who their best friend is. These things tell you a lot about a character.

My friend jumped right into the questions, taking my deeper questions and criticisms in stride. That skeleton of a heroine grew into a truly fleshed out person. I know who she is, and by the end of an hour, I had a pretty good sketch of the hero. I’ve got the big idea, or in Suzanne’s words, what the overall quilt will look like. The colors that I’ll be using aren’t very clear yet, but I’m not even halfway through the patchwork quilt process with this plot idea. (I am in the middle of what started out as a crackpot idea.)

Here is what I do know:

  • I can make my friend’s idea into a story I can sell. It may not be exactly what she envisioned, but it’s one more idea to make into a story.
  • I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the education I got via Suzanne. 
  • I may not ever cringe again when someone says, “I have an idea for a plot.”

Ok, that last one is probably a lie. I will still cringe. Most authors aren’t struggling for ideas. We struggle with the limitations of time and the speed of our fingers to get the ideas out fast enough. Here is the other beautiful part about Suzanne’s way of plotting; it is all there once you are done. You’ve got the accessory characters, the furniture (you’ll have to take one of her classes to understand), the interactions between all the characters, plot arcs, and a nearly full blown synopsis. Due to me taking care of my mother, it was necessary for me to take a pretty large break in writing. When I went back to the manuscript in my editor’s hands, I knew exactly where I was in the story and where I needed to go once I had time to devote to daily scribbling. I didn’t have my brain to thank for that. I had Suzanne’s plotting method.

I’m left with a scribbled plot idea and half synopsis in the back of my day planner and a serious appreciation for a great writer and an even better writing teacher. Check out Suzanne Johnson’s website and look into one of her workshops that she’ll be leading in the next year. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for Inspiration

It’s traditional to share what we, as Americans, are thankful for on this day where we celebrate the help that the Pilgrims received from the Wampanoag. Currently, I’m not in a place where I feel much thankfulness at all. We are currently in the awkward family moments stage of holidays here in Whistler land. 

Yet, I have to give thanks for these awkward times, because from it I have plotted out a story. When I’m done with it, no one will recognize the situation that gave birth to the plot, but I will know. 

I’ve done this before when something unfortunate happened to me. That story, Big Bad Easy, will be published with The Wild Rose Press. 

I suppose this means that I must look for the silver plot in every black cloud that hovers overhead. May you have a Happy Thanksgiving, and if not, may you have an inspiring one.

Sweet, Lovely Words

Today, I had the chance to meet readers and talk with a woman I met last year at the Heart of Louisiana’s annual Readers’ Luncheon. The ladies that sat at the table with me had great questions and even better thoughts about what made stories interesting to them. I was even able to appreciate why a reader liked a certain series of books that make my face contort into a mask of ugliness. Conversations like that open up a world to all of us and challenges the thoughts that we’ve ingrained into our brains. 

It’s always great to talk to other authors, but perhaps the best part of today was talking to a reader who gave me feedback, face to face, about the stories that I’ve written that she’s read. Y’all I had a glow all the way home. It’s fueling an amazing amount of words flowing from my fingers this night. 

My advice to you is that if you liked a story, tell the author. Either email him or her. Leave a review where you bought the book or tag them on Twitter. You’ll be giving sweet, lovely words to fill that author’s emotional well. We all need a little of that. 

I needed a Hero…

When we thought we had bats at the fish camp, I insisted that my husband find someone to move the bats away from our dormer. I wanted the stink gone. So, he called. 

And called.

And called again.

Finally he found Trapper John, Wildlife guy.

Trapper and his helper came to investigate whether we had bats. His diagnosis. “Yes. You’ve got lots of bats. There’s guano for days up there.”

I tried not to wretch. The stench of it is bad enough, but the knowledge that there were lots of guano almost brought me to lose my lunch. 

He told us that he could come back and get the bats out by doing this and that. He paused, looked at my husband and I, and made a pronouncement. “You’re young and healthy enough. You can do this. Let me tell you how.”

We listened and realized that we could do it with the purchase of a tall ladder and some foam. With Trapper John’s expert advice, we got to work. Or, I should say, my husband got to work. Being highly sensitive to the odor of the bat guano, I ended up holding the ladder. 

There’s so much more to the story, but I don’t want to ruin a story that formed almost instantly in my head as my husband bathed himself in the yard due to guano exposure. It’s a perfect opening for another erotic romance. I feel like I making lemonade out of lemons. (I tried a bat guano into anything metaphor, but, y’all, that did not work.)

Until I get that story written, get a copy of Behaving Badly, a tale of a church secretary/night club singer and a sexy investigator. These two really heat up the page.