Whenever I meet someone new and mention I’m a novelist, their first question is often, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’m absolutely shameless and will scavenge for inspiration everywhere. I could be out shopping and overhear an intriguing conversation. While doing research for one book, I’ll find ideas for several more. I love going to the movies, and a minor character might spark my imagination and take me in a completely new direction. I keep a notebook to jot down the ideas flowing around me before they’re forgotten. I also record my dreams.
Last night I had a vivid dream that would make a great scene in a thriller. It was at the seashore on a cold and windy day. A woman was standing on a rocky ledge shouting to a man in the water who appeared to be holding a child. He could have been rescuing her, or threatening to drown her. The noise of the surf made it impossible to hear the shouts between them. Suddenly, the man let go of the child and swam away. The woman dove into the freezing water and grabbed what she thought was her beloved child, but it was only a crudely made doll with features inked on a pale cotton face. She’d been fooled by the doll’s long black hair floating on the water and been cruelly tricked.
I woke up then and while I thought I’d recall the dream in the morning, I got up and made some notes just to be certain. It was such a good scene, sharp, emotional, possibly tragic, and I could create a story of a kidnapping, or custody dispute with an unbalanced spouse. The point is, I didn’t just roll over and think I’d recall it in the morning. I caught it while it was hot.
When great ideas fall into your lap, as in a dream, or from your own experience, add them to your great idea file and keep them. Whenever I hear someone say they can’t think of anything to write, I always wonder why they don’t have a file or notebook full of ideas to spark their imagination.
History is filled with conflict and a rich source for ideas. I had the pleasure of touring Scandinavia and fell in love with Viking culture. There are wonderful museums with beautiful thousand-year-old artifacts that provide excellent detail to make a story come alive. There is a museum in Oslo with the Oseberg ship found in a burial mound. It’s complete down to the intricate carvings and is a marvelous thing to see. There’s another Viking ship museum in Roskilde, Denmark. In approximately 1070, the five ships were sunk in the harbor to protect the city from invasion. They were excavated in 1962 and are displayed in a stark modern building on the coast. Standing beside them I felt an eerie sensation, as though the ships were haunted by the men who’d sailed them.
My October Retro Release from Samhain is BY LOVE ENSLAVED, a Viking tale with a young woman charged with the responsibility of taming a Celtic slave. He promises to follow her every command, if she’ll take him for her lover.
First published in 1989, it’s long been a fan favorite, and I’m thrilled to have it available as an ebook.
I’ll send a pdf copy to someone who comments. Do you ever have dreams, or experiences you could turn into books? Have you done so? Make sure you leave a valid contact email.
Please come to my website, www.phoebeconn.com for details about my latest releases.
(Be honest… do you know what a chesterfield is?)
Up until Half Blind, all of my written works were set in the United States. I love New York as a locale for the fantastic. It’s one of those cities where – for all we know – crazy supernatural stuff is going on behind the scenes all the time and never comes up because the population is so huge and vibrant that it can easily camouflage something that would otherwise stand out like a drag queen in a convent.
But with Half Blind, I wanted to do something closer to home. I’m passionately Canadian, and I decided that it was about time to move my setting north. My main character, Ashley Brandon, is an agent of the Canadian Supernatural Investigation Team and works out of Vancouver. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Vancouver is safe. It’s reputation for being the ‘North Hollywood’ has given most people at least a peripheral awareness of its existence (if not, and you’re a fan of Supernatural, then this is the place where you can come and stalk Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki while they’re filming). So yeah, Vancouver.
What I failed to take into consideration was that basing a book in Canada would suddenly be accompanied by a hundred small tidbits I accidentally slipped into the story because they made sense in context. Like mentioning Tim Horton’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m at heart a Starbucks kind of girl, but there’s something about an early morning that demands Tim’s. And I took for granted that anyone who read Half Blind would understand the driving need for a Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich and a double-double (coffee: two cream, two sugar) that leads to people getting in line behind twenty cars in the drive thru for their morning fix. (What you don’t see in the picture is that the line up wraps around the other side of the building as well as the twelve cars behind me). Now, I know there are Tim Horton’s in the USA, but I’m not sure how far the coffee worship really extends.
I suddenly had to become aware of the lingo I was using, which quickly came to be referred to as my ‘Random Canadianisms’ while we were editing Half Blind. A ticket butt? Changed to a stub. A chesterfield? Changed to a couch. A parkade? Changed to a parking garage. I thought I’d been good when I’d managed to stop my characters from dropping the occasional ‘eh’ (this particular tic, by the way, is not an exaggeration… I use it all the time; it’s practically punctuation), but there were a ton of small adjustments that had to be made just for readability and to make sure the message I was trying to convey got across without confusing anyone.
Don’t even get me started on the spelling. Somehow, setting the book in Vancouver seemed to give me free rein to insert the letter u into far too many places and swap my rs and es. So that was fun fixing. Thank goodness for CTRL+H.
That being said, at the end of the day it felt good to set a story in Canada. And really, there weren’t a whole lot of huge differences. The story wasn’t really impacted. The romance felt just as real and genuine as it would have had I based it anywhere else. Sure, I mentioned Gas Town instead of Brooklyn, but the characters and feel remained essentially the same. Besides a few small quirks, Canadians and Americans (and really, everyone else in the world) aren’t all that different. Sure, we might have a disconnect when I try to describe the visceral pleasure of pressing a twoonie into the palm of a Tim Horton’s worker in exchange for my morning caffeine fix, but we can all understand how passionate arguments between two people can result in an equally passionate romance, and I think we all hope for the eventual happily ever after.
What do you think? If you’re one of the lucky residents of the ten States that have a Tim’s, is it the sort of religious experience (most) Canadians enjoy, or it is just another coffee joint? Tell you what, give me your best stories. Canadianisms vs. Americanisms. Your most random encounter with someone on the other side of the border (both Canadian and American). I’ll even send one commenter a bag of Tim’s Fine Grind so you can make your own decisions (if you live in America) or sleep in a little bit more on a weekend if you’re Canadian – come on, it’s not like I’d ask you to give up your drive thru fix on a weekday.
Half Blind comes out October 16, 2012.
Christine Price lives with her family Edmonton, AB. Her fascination with the written word began at a young age with a one-page story titled “My Mother is a Werewolf” and took off from there. In her spare time, she enjoys unfortunate puns, good books, borderline decent wine and making contingency plans for a zombie apocalypse. (Believe it or not, this used to be an unusual pastime!)
Christine loves hearing from her readers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org via email or on the Web at www.christinepricewrites.com.
You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CPriceIsWrite. Sometimes, she’s interesting!
Five Suggestions to Make Your Dialogue Sparkle
By Katherine Kingston
1. Leave out the empty, meaningless phrases. Have you ever eavesdropped on people talking? (See number 5 below). One thing you’ll notice is how much people space out the actual content of what they say with meaningless words and phrases. “You know,” “Like I said,” “Well…” Edit those out. We know they’re there, but reproducing it in your written dialogue weakens it and makes it boring. If you’re trying to convey something about the character with it, use it once or twice, but don’t keep putting it in. It gets boring quickly. And we all spend a minute or two making meaningless chatter when we first answer the phone or meet a friend on the street. As authors, though, we don’t need to include the questions about how they’re doing, whether they’re enjoying the weather, how the wife and kids are, unless it’s absolutely necessary for the story.
2. Make sure it stays in character. A college professor doesn’t talk the same way your plumber does. Complete sentences, long words, careful logic – those can work for the college professor. They can work for the plumber, too, but you’d better let us know why that plumber is discussing Nietzche instead of joints and traps and why the Yankees are tanking this season. And vice versa for the college professor. Not that he wouldn’t discuss baseball, but he isn’t as likely to describe one of the players as a “worthless bum.” If he does, we need to know why he’s talking like your neighborhood plumber.
3. Make sure it fits the situation. Although I was born in New York, I live in the southern part of the United States and my husband is from somewhere south of Podunk, South Carolina. But he’s got a Master’s degree, and he doesn’t talk like someone from the backwoods…until he gets on the phone with his father. His soft, southern accent becomes far more country, and his phrasing changes to match. We all change the way we speak depending on context. Almost all professions have their own lingo that their practictioners use among themselves, and sometimes it’s all but incomprehensible to the rest of. People talk differently at dinner parties, at sporting events, at business dinners, when speaking to children, etc.
4. Making the dialogue fit the character and context does not mean using a whole lot of strange spelling and punctuation to make the point. If you have to drop the “g” on the end of “ing” words or spell “here” “heah” to convey a New England accent, do so sparingly. A couple of times will make the point. In a lot of cases, you can do it all with word choice. My favorite example comes from a carpenter who was working on some renovations on our house. He once told us a long, rambling story about someone trying to hire some help to get a big project finished on the Friday before a holiday weekend. He called everyone he couldn’t think of but couldn’t find anyone to assist because “They’d all left out and gone fishing.” Do I have to tell you that he didn’t pronounce the final “g” on the “fishing”?
5. Eavesdrop. Even transcribe it, if you can, to study later. There’s nothing like listening, really listening to how people actually talk. Eavesdropping is particularly helpful because you can listen to the words, intonation, and pronunciation without having to process and react to the content. Notice the different speech patterns. Try to listen to different people: teenagers don’t talk like your doctor; street people don’t talk like bankers; soldiers don’t talk like police offices. Yes, that last one is often a subtle difference, but it’s real and if you’re writing about either law enforcement officers or soldiers, you really should understand the differences.
About Katherine Kingston:
Katherine Kingston has written somewhere around two dozen erotic novels, novellas, and short stories. Most of her novels and novellas are currently published by Ellora’s Cave, but she has one novella with Whispers Publishing, and has had stories in a number of print publications. Her stories cover a range of genres from historical to paranormal to science fiction and contemporary. Most of them include hot, kinky sex, particularly BDSM. Learn more about Katherine and her books at her website: http://www.katherinekingston.com
Blurb for Secret Santa Sir (Available November 23rd): When Maggie Marino gets a note from a very unofficial Secret Santa during the office’s holiday gift exchange, she’s surprised to be tempted by it. This Secret Santa offers to help fulfill her wilder sexual fantasies, those fantasies she’s never admitted to anyone else. Normally the very professional, uptight Maggie wouldn’t consider doing anything so risky. But she’s at a crossroads in her life. She wants a husband and family, but she also has kinky sexual fantasies and none of the nice guys she’s dated so far have moved her. She agrees to her Secret Santa’s proposal, and her first few anonymous encounters with him are a revelation, showing her levels of sensuality she’s never experienced before. But when she meets the man behind the gifts and the glorious kisses, her life gets seriously complicated. As she begins to fall in love with him, she’s faced with having to make a decision between her longing for husband and family, and continuing a relationship that fulfills her in ways she never believed possible.
Well, people, it’s been ages but…I HAVE A BOO!! For those not up on the most modern lingo (like yours truly until just a few minutes ago) that means I am dating. This is a major squeeee moment considering I have been single since my children were two and four years old and they’ve just hit their twenties. In fact, the newly-overwith dry spell can be credited with giving me inspiration for my book, Caramel Kisses.
Many would think the book was about cooking or desserts or something. But in fact, it’s about a woman who has spent her life taking care of her younger sister and making her own way up the corporate ladder. Now that her sister has her own career, what’s stopping this woman from going forward with her own life? The answer: fear. Total, utter and abject fear.
What if it doesn’t work out? What if she made a poor choice in her mate? What if, what if, what if, what if…?
If we let it, fear of the unknown, fear of the new, or fear of the ‘damn, I haven’t seen or done this in ages’ can keep us from discovering something magical and fantastic.
So, I’m going to put my new beau and my family on the hook and ask them to help me with this blog post.
TJ: You’re an active duty military dude and a total bad ass. What are some of the things that you fear?
Mr. TJ: Failure.
TJ: Failure? But why?
Mr. TJ: Because when we fail, people die. Sometimes when we succeed people still die. The worst thing is to fail.
That was an eye opener. So, I moved on to my family.
TJ: What is the biggest thing you fear?
Son: To not leave an imprint on the world. If I don’t do something to make the world better, I’m afraid I’ll feel like I was just a useless person.
Daughter: Letting people down and being replaced because I’m not good enough.
TJ: I don’t understand.
Daughter: For example, what if I’m really good at business, but then I get fired because someone better comes along. Or if I’m in a relationship and I’m not meeting the person’s needs then I’ll be alone. It’s the idea that your all isn’t good enough.
Hope-to-be-daughter-in-law: To be unwanted.
Well, that needed no explanation.
On the flip side, you can face a fear and defeat it if you know what it is, right? And I can happily say that everyone I spoke to is charging forward in their lives.
And the awesome heroine in Caramel Kisses did the same. By choosing to overcome her fear of failing in her relationship, though she was long out of practice, she went on to have a truly happy ever after.
I think I’ll do the same.
What about you? Leave a comment answering my question along with a valid contact email and you’ll have a chance at winning an ecopy (either Kindle or Nook) of Caramel Kisses. I’ll pick a name (or Lissa’s PA Brandy will) in a couple of days.
Links to Caramel Kisses:
Website | Amazon | BN
Ideas When You Least Expect Them
I’m often asked where do find ideas. I find them everywhere and sometimes they find me.
My most recent book, Claimed by Dragons, co-authored with Katalina Leon, came from a visit to Salem MA.
My husband and I wanted to visit Salem during October when we knew the town would be full of the Halloween spirit. The shops were hopping with things to do. If you wanted your palm read or a tarot reading, Salem was the place to be. If you wanted to be spooked, you could be.
My teenager and her two best friends were along for the trip with us. They visited a shop where the owner told them to pick a stone out of a black velvet bag. She instructed the girls to make a wish and return the stone to nature and their wish would come true.
When I told Kat about this, we both said, “Wouldn’t that make for a fun book.” One book idea turned into four and so began the Bag of Tricks series. Four women on a reunion in Salem. Four stones that will lead them to their true love.
Most of the time I’m not looking for ideas, they just seem to find me. :o)
I’d be happy to give away a copy of my book Claimed by Dragons. Just leave a comment and a valid contact email. I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday.
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