This month, our topic is discussing where our story ideas come from. Honestly, for me, most of them emerge out of three scenarios: the world around me, dreams, and that little voice in my head that asks, “What if?” Those two words are enough to send me down a rabbit hole of research.
Then there are other times when I just sit down and let my muse take me on a journey with her. Usually, the results are flash fiction. I have an author friend who hosts a weekly flash fiction contest. There are two rules: the submission must be between 100 and 250 words, and it must contain that week’s phrase. I’ve won one and earned a couple of honorable mentions. It’s been a while since I’ve participated, so the one I wrote yesterday was almost 500 words and ineligible. As I thought it was fun, I’ll share it at the bottom of this post.
My shapeshifter series “Children of the Wild” grew out of a discussion with one of my editors when Wild Child Publishing was still open. We were throwing around the possibility of creating a series with a series bible for other authors to submit for. We wanted something different. I came up with the idea of medically created shapeshifters (this was in 2009, or thereabouts). The first story, Some Place to Belong, begins in a Nazi concentration camp where they were attempting (and succeeded) in creating shapeshifters. After the war, Adelheid, and others like her, end up in Argentina. This is where her story is set.
The second book, Snow Spirits, came some years later (2019) and took me a few years to research. It was sparked from reading about Unit 731, the Japanese equivalent to the Nazi’s medical experimentations. My brain asked, “What if”, and two years later, I finished the book detailing Lin Xuě, a snow leopard shifter, escape from the PLA. It was a harrowing journey for us all as I didn’t know what was going to happen until the words appeared on the page. LOL (As a pantser, this is very common.)
Mr. Hotness was inspired by the Decadent’s 1Nightstand series. My brain said, “What would happen if it was a 29-year-old virgin?” and Naia’s story was born. Short, spicy, and fun, I really enjoyed writing this one. How do you get a reluctant virgin to go on an adventure to lose her virginity in Las Vegas? Well, a little bit of emotional bribery from a savvy niece and a good friend.
The Whispering House took some 5 years to write. There was a lot of stop and starting, probably because my brain had a hard time wrapping itself around what my muse wanted. But, as all authors know, the muse is always right. It’s when we fight the muse that problems arise. I wanted to write a story set in the foothills outside of Fresno, California, with the fog, and I wanted paranormal erotic romance. So, I created this really atmospheric setting, and the story unwound. After one scene, I asked, “Where do I go from here?” It took a few years for my muse to answer, I think because the story wasn’t going in the direction my brain thought it should go. LOL Of course, it’s much better than my original intent with some unexpected twists and turns that shocked me.
My most recently released story, which was in an anthology now off sale, The Samurai’s Duke, has been on the back burner for years. The idea came about when I was studying aikido. I think I was on a Regency romance binge at the time and my brain paired the two, wondering what would happen if a young Japanese woman, trained in aikido, found herself in England during the Regency period. But the sheer amount of research this would take stopped me from writing it. Then, I agree to write a short story for a fundraising historical romance anthology, and the idea surfaced again. However, I’d since learned aikido is a young martial art (late 1800’s). In recent years, I stumbled on some articles about women samurai. While Japan wasn’t open to the West until 1853, I still couldn’t resist the temptation to say, “what if?” Hikari/Emma got her story (it needs to be expanded, though.)
My novella Hieroglyphs, under my pseudonym Kit Wylde, arose from a conversation with my then publishing partner when Wild Child first started as a magazine. This was fairly early internet days, 1999, and research was what we might think of as old school. I left this story for the last because it was really quite astonishing. I asked my publishing partner, “What if there was a woman Egyptian pharaoh who’d been assassinated by her stepson and erased from history?” The story started its life as a serial story. A few months into the story, a news article came out about Hatshepsut. A lot of what I was writing (at least about ancient Egypt) was eerily accurate. I’m sure I’m not the only writer that’s experienced this phenomena over the years. While it’s a bit unsettling, it’s also exciting.
My last story that will be re-released some time this year Last Chance was also originally a serial in Wild Child Magazine. I grew up around Tarot cards. My mother read them when I was a child, I knew a number of them. Not the gypsy who scam often people, but honest psychics. I wanted to write a lighthearted contemporary romance with some paranormal in it, and that’s what it was until I expanded it this past year. My experience with Tarot readers, and how a lot of society view them, influenced this story and were the impetus for it. There’s even a dream sequence that is an actual dream I had. (This also happened for The Whispering House. I dreamt the final scene.) Originally 15,000 words, it’s now at 56,000 or so and has developed into a deeper story. The ghosts have taken on a larger role, and the heroine, Susan, goes through a definite character growth arc.
And, finally, the 477 word flash fiction story. It’s untitled at the moment.
“Stop saying that. If you just take a few deep breaths and calm yourself, it won’t look so bad.” Carrie glanced up from slicing carrots at her daughter Josie. “If you put your mind to it, I think you can make it happen. That’s what you’ve done with everything else in your life. Why should this be any different?”
Josie chewed on her lower lip, tears glistening in her big, heavenly blue eyes so like her father’s. “Because if I do and win, Dani will hate me. She told me she would.”
Dani. Josie’s best “friend”. The teen had attached herself to Josie on day one of high school. Nothing Carrie said could convince her daughter to shake her loose of that hold, much to her daughter’s detriment. This was one of many times Dani had used Josie to get what she wanted.
Carrie ripped a stalk of celery off the rib, rinsed it, slammed it on the cutting board, and imagined it was Dani she chopped. The smell of brimstone tickled her nose. She flicked her gaze to her daughter, but Josie was distracted with her own problems. Taking a deep, calming breath, Carrie counted to 10.
“That’s not how friends work,” Carrie said. “Friends support each other and cheer each other on.”
Josie hung her head. “I know, but there’s only one spot left in honor choir. Mrs. Saunders encouraged me to try out, but—Dani really wants in.”
“Why?” Carrie transferred the chopped vegetables to the salad bowl and tossed them with the lettuce.
“Well—Aidan Martinez joined.” Color bloomed in Josie’s cheeks.
Ah . . . a boy. That explained it. The little bitch was protecting what she considered her territory. If only Carrie could make that girl disappear.
She sighed. It was forbidden. Modern times made things so much harder.
“Are you trying out for him?”
“Mom!” Josie’s eyes flashed red with indignation. “I’d never do that.”
“Then try out.” She handed the bowl to Josie to put on the table.
“But—” Josie clasped the bowl close to her chest.
“If Dani gets in, does that mean Aidan will like her?”
“Well . . . no.” She hung her head. “He likes me. When I told Dani that, she went a little crazy, said that I was lying, but it’s true. He said so.” A tentative smile curled up her lips.
Of course, he did. Her daughter was half demon/half angel and beautiful. Sadly, her personality leaned more toward angelically impossibly sweet with no hint of her mother’s demon side. Maybe someday . . .
Carrie cupped her daughter’s cheek. “So, you’ll have to choose, my dear. You can be miserable or try out for choir. Maybe Dani will relent.”
“Do you think so?”
Carrie turned away from her daughter and smiled a secret, little smile. “Oh, I do.”