Finding Great Ideas ~ #LynnCrain #PCers

desktop-1

Many times I have been asked where I get my ideas. That question can be asked at a book signing or a conference and can come from a reader or another writer. My ideas have been considered outside the box and many times an idea will sit in a file until I can either use it or keep it until the right time. Most of the time though, I am quite happy to tell people I have a great imagination but there are times when I will take something that is known and twist it to my own ends.

Still, those germs of imagination have to come from somewhere so here are my top five of where I get my many, many ideas.

1 ~ I am a voracious reader ~ Most authors would agree that they will get some ideas by reading stories by others. Frankly, you can’t be a great writer unless you’re a great reader. It just doesn’t happen. I’ve been reading novels since I was in second grade. Sure, they were little kids’ ones but they were much longer than the standard book.

The one thing I do as a writer is not read in the genre I’m writing. Meaning, when I’m writing sci-fi romance, I read regular romance. When I’m writing fantasy romance, again I will read some form of regular romance. No writer wants to find out they’ve ‘accidentally’ used something from their favorite writer and one needs to be very, very careful there.

2 ~ Science Magazines ~ Being that sci-fi anything is one of my favorite genres to write, I constantly look over the many science magazines online. They can be a fount of information and I’m always game for twisting the currently known and making it my own. It’s where I found my first holographic display, where I noticed that the nanites were getting smaller and smaller. Anyone can use magazines to find out the current trend in the world then figure out to best use it in their story, no matter what the genre.

3 ~ Music ~ How many times have you listened to a song and wished there was a full story behind it? Add a music video along with that and sometimes it just clicks. Of course, you’d have to change it to make it your own but it does give you that germ of an idea for the ball to start rolling.

4 ~ TV Shows ~ This is the easiest one for me because there are times I’m a very visual person. You can watch a scene then think to yourself, ‘What if I took it one step further?’ And again, the ball starts rolling. Another thing I’ve done is watch a totally contemporary story and wonder what it would be like if it were set 200 years in the future or in the past. Some shows keep the ideas flowing for days.

5 ~ Be an observer of people ~ This is the best one. I used to go to airports early while waiting for my husband because I loved watching people. I would try to figure out their stories and then wonder if I could make it my own. Many times I’ve been caught in a restaurant booth where I overhear a conversation that grabs my interest. Of course, I know you don’t get the whole story that way but I realize I can make it my own. Think of the many times you’ve seen people and wondered just what was going on or what their story was.

One thing to remember is to be very careful that whatever method you use, it’s totally new because it’s from your mind and your perspective. It is never cool to take a story from somewhere else and claim it as your own.

For the ideas I don’t use, I keep an idea file that is sorted by genre then by type. If I’m ever at a loss for what to write about, I will pull out that file then scan the contents. Sometimes I will use one I’ve previously done or it will trigger a totally new idea and I’ll go off on a different tangent. The one thing I do know is that I have more ideas than I’ll ever write. At last count, my idea file had over 180 ideas in it. Now if I could just write a story a day…and that’s what makes writing so fun…it’s never boring!

See you all next month!

signature-lc-2

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

Feeding the Muse

As you read this, I am somewhere in England, traipsing over the countryside near Keswick–famous during the 19th century for poets and pencils, known then and now for its breathtaking beauty.

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells, as viewed from Latrigg north of the town. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Vol. 3, No. 16 (1854), pp. 252–254

Pencil-making at Keswick, 1854

October, sadly, is the wettest month of the year in northwest England–by several inches–but I am hoping my new hiking boots are up to the task.

My primary purpose for this trip, aside from the very real pleasure of seeing a few college friends, is for research. The book I am hoping to finish this week (oh please, dear Muse!) is set largely in southern Cumbria–which is also on the agenda.

William Westall, Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge, c. 1840

Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge. William Westall, c. 1840. (public domain)

My friend Helen and I will be visiting Blists Hill Victorian Town (a living history sort of museum, or so I understand), Mayfair (because nearly every English historical romance is set there at least part of the time), the Jack the Ripper museum (it promises to be stomach-churningly gruesome so I suppose we’ll have to eat afterwards…), a tour of Parliament with a friend who reportedly does lofty important things there, a few literary landmarks like Jane Austen’s house and Stratford-upon-Avon, and what I fully expect to be a record number of tea shops and pubs en route.

Jane Austen's House, Chawton, Hampshre. By Rudi Riet. CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, Hampshire. By Rudi Riet.             CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never truly taken a writing research trip before. I have found unexpected inspiration on trips to Italy, Paris, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, and other places, but this is the first time I’m setting out to go where I want to go solely for the purpose of gathering information for my writing (with the advice and consent of my traveling companion, of course, who is strangely willing to indulge me–thank you, Helen!).

I’ll be scribbling in notebooks and taking lots of pictures to share with you all, and I hope the Muses will help fill my head with wonderful stories to tell when I return in about a week–starting with a new book for NaNoWriMo.

Until then, may your Muse be with you, whatever your endeavor, wherever you are.

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

 

 

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Lure of the Mediterranean

My book, Blackmailed by the Italian Billionaire, is on sale this week at only 99 cents. Blackmailed is one of my earlier books and I wrote it as a sort of tribute to all the Mills and Boons romances I devoured as a teenager.

I’m English, and I grew up in a small town in the north of England, in an area known as the Lake District. It was a beautiful place, but the sun rarely shines and it rains there—a lot. I yearned for the sun, and when I started reading romances in my early teens, I was always drawn to the ones with hot, sultry settings and with tall, dark, handsome heroes; Greeks, Italians, Spaniard’s, all hot-blooded and spectacularly rich (owning their own island always helps). I dreamed of one day lying on a sun-kissed Mediterranean beach with a stunningly gorgeous, very-nearly-naked hero of my own. He’d be all golden skin and rippling muscles, and one look from his dark eyes would melt me into a puddle in the sand…

It never happened. I found a lovely English guy instead, but we did travel a lot when I was younger, and I spent a lot of time lying on sun-kissed beaches. And when it came to settling down, it was hardly surprising that I ended up not far from the Mediterranean. In fact, I now live on a farm in the mountains of Southern Spain, which looks down onto the Mediterranean Sea. I love the area, the people, the food, the fiestas… It’s a fabulously inspiring place and it’s not unexpected that I now find myself unable to resist the lure of writing about Mediterranean men.

Luc, the hero of Blackmailed by the Italian Billionaire, wasn’t inspired by any one man in particular, but by an amalgamation of all those Mediterranean heroes I dreamed about.

bbib-1600px-latestBlurb: Blackmailed by the Italian Billionaire

Olivia Brent is happy with her quiet and orderly life in the country, until the imminent loss of her home forces her to try and track down her estranged father. She’s immediately out of her depth and in danger from criminals she believes her father might be among. Luckily, a stunningly gorgeous and enigmatic billionaire sweeps in to rescue her.

Saving Olivia is not an altruistic act for Luc Severino. He’s been searching for her father for years and feels now he’s closer than ever to getting the revenge he desires. He’s willing to use any methods available to persuade Olivia to help him.

If blackmail doesn’t gain her total cooperation, a little seduction might. But losing his own heart could change Luc’s greatest desire forever.

How do you feel about Mediterranean heroes? Love them or hate them?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Inconceivable!

This morning a college friend posted on Facebook that he had never seen The Princess Bride. Inconceivable, yes? It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater more than once, and the second time I went by myself. So I started streaming it on Netflix as I stared at this blank blog page, trying to figure out what to write today. I got to this exchange between Vizzini and Inigo, as the Man in Black is climbing the Cliffs of Insanity:

V: “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!”
I: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

You can see the whole clip here, just because it’s awesome.

Anyway, it got me thinking. As writers, words are everything to us. Large and small, we agonize over every one we write. As an author of historical fiction, I not only have to agonize over every word and what it means, I need to think about whether the word actually existed in the time period of the book.  I keep a bunch of reference books on my desk and on my Kindle which help me find just the right word, and I have the OED, available online through my public library, bookmarked.

img_3971

If there’s even the slightest question a word might not mean what I think it means, I look it up. If there’s the slightest question a word didn’t exist in the 19th century, I look it up. And if I have used ‘smile’ 100 times (yes, it’s possible), I look for other words to replace them. And my editor takes out 90% of my ‘thats.’

So, what about you? What are your go-to sources for finding just the right word? And how many times have you seen The Princess Bride? 🙂

 

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Things I Love About Series…

I love discovering new series—that wonderful feeling you get when you really enjoy a book and you know there are a whole load more to come. I love falling in love with characters and knowing I’m going to meet them again. And getting immersed in a world and knowing I’ll get to visit over and over and no doubt learn new things each time.

For the same reasons, I also love writing series. Usually, I don’t start out with the intention of writing more than one book, but then something occurs. This tends to be me falling madly in love with a secondary character and needing to know more about them (this has even happened with the ‘villain’ of a book who’s later found himself the hero of his own story.) Or I can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to my hero and heroine—I have to know what happens to them—I want proof they are actually living their happily ever after.

Also, although I believe all stories should have a distinct beginning and an end, I love the idea that each individual story is just part of something bigger. A sort of snapshot in time, and there are a whole load of things going on either side of the beginning and the end that I just have to know about—I’m nosey!

So I start to write the next book—it’s a compulsion.

But things were a little different with my latest release, UNTHINKABLE.

unthinkable_v2-500UNTHINKABLE

They were promised a world with no more lies…

Jake Callahan, leader of the Tribe, has always believed he’s one of the good guys. Now, hunted by the government he used to work for, he’s taking a crash course in being bad. What he desperately needs is a bargaining tool, and that’s unfortunate for Christa Winters, daughter of Jake’s former boss.

Christa is a scientist, a total geek, and a good girl with a secret hankering for bad boys. Which turns out to be embarrassingly inconvenient when she’s kidnapped by a stunningly gorgeous—but obviously bad-to-the-bone—man intent on using her against the father she loves. A man with a seemingly uncanny ability to know exactly when she’s thinking about kissing him—which is most of the time.

But people are dying, and it becomes clear that the stakes are much higher than Jake ever imagined. Someone is out to obliterate the Tribe and everyone associated with it, including Christa. Only by working together to uncover the secrets behind the past, can they ever hope to have a future.

UNTHINKABLE is book 1 in my brand new Beyond Human series. And in this case, I set out with the intention of writing more than one book. Four in fact, and while each is a separate romance with a happy ever after, there is also an overall story arc (though I admit I don’t know exactly how book 4 will end.)

What about you—reading or writing—do you prefer a series or do you like your stories different each time?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Judging a Book by its Cover

“Why, it’s one o’ the books I bought at Partridge’s sale. They was all bound alike — it’s a good binding, you see — and I thought they’d be all good books. . . . but they’ve all got the same covers, and I thought they were all o’ one sample, as you may say. But it seems one musn’t judge by th’ outside. This is a puzzling world.”
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

perf5.000x8.000.inddMarin here, and today I’m thinking about the puzzling world of book covers. Recently I worked with a cover artist–the very talented Rae Monet–to create the cover for my third book.

A cover’s primary purpose, of course, is to convince the reader to buy the book behind it. A great cover not only entices the reader, but captures the story in some way.  Cover artist Peter Mendelsund says “his job is ‘finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.’”   But beyond that, a cover needs to represent the book. The mood of the cover should match that of the book–a couple in a clinch for a romance, something dark and eerie for a paranormal, an illustration for a children’s book. Even things like font matter–you see the font that was used on the Harry Potter books, and you recognize it immediately.  The cover, according to Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, should be a promise to the reader. A promise that the book is as professional as its cover, that it is of the genre depicted by the cover, and that you will enjoy reading it.

There are plenty of sites out there which discuss the elements that make a great cover, and I list a few of them below. But as one of them points out, what really makes a great cover is what makes you purchase the book. I tend to like covers that are more abstract, that hint at the character of the book without revealing too much. Here are some of my favorites (click on the covers to visit the book’s Goodreads entry):

Deanna Raybourn was new to me, and I picked up her book in the library almost entirely because of the cover. The others are authors I know and like and would have read anyway. All of these covers evoke their stories and the genre. I think Julia Quinn’s cover must have worked quite well, because she has used a variation of it at least twice since then…

I asked my fellow Passionate Critters what they like, and don’t like, in a cover:

“I tend to gravitate toward books with real people on the covers. I tend to like couples too. I like feet/legs too–or just bodies with no heads–so I can get the gist of the romance while leaving something to my imagination.”

“I like illustrated covers, too, if they’re well done and not drawn by the author themselves. Actually…it’s easier to say what DOESN’T work. Go here to see some samples: http://lousybookcovers.com/.”

“I like a simple cover which conveys the mood or feel of the story that I’m buying.”

“I’ve always liked Kristan Higgins’ covers. You see a couple but not too much of their faces.”

“I’m the opposite of the others, I love faces.  At least the guy’s face, I’m OK with the back of the girl’s head.  Clinch covers work for me as well.  I want a sense of the time period, what the characters look like, and the overall mood of the book.  From the cover I should easily be able to tell if it’s a romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, as well as what era it’s set in, and a decent idea of what the main character, or characters, look like.  I also like to get a sense of who the characters are, is it a brooding alpha male?  Throw him in a tux and make him look angry….or heated…or both.  Character looks are huge for me, especially for the male, and nothing irks me more than grabbing a good book and then having the guy be described as someone I don’t find even remotely attractive.  It kills the whole thing for me.”

“I don’t honestly know.  Some are clearly just bad or rather lousy, but they don’t count.
But of good, well-done covers, where there’s nothing actually wrong with them…hmmm. There’s no type that appeals to me – some just look…right.
I think it’s sort of subjective to a degree – flowers and a wedding dress would put me off, because it screams sweet and I don’t particularly like sweet.
My favorite sort of covers are UF [urban fantasy], which always seem to be very distinctive of the genre, usually a beautiful background, a strong character (all of them, they never seem to have their heads chopped off) often a woman, and a few swirly bits to pretty them up.
I think it’s an arty thing (which is why I struggle) just getting the proportions and colors right and pleasing to the eye.”

“I like real people, faces, and even a bit of setting. I like to see the story. I don’t like the drawn covers–like chick lit has. And don’t get me started on the computer graphics that….are just…not real looking. LOL  But that’s just me.
I don’t like chopped off heads or flowers or wedding dresses or babies.  I don’t know what that says about me.
Oh, I also don’t like floating heads…over cities and stuff.”

Clearly, we all like different things, which only goes to show that you’ll never please everyone, no matter how brilliant your cover may be. What stands out for you in a book cover? Share your favorite!

Some other takes on what makes a great book cover:

https://selfpublishingadvisor.com/2016/08/10/the-book-beautiful-the-cover/
https://springfieldwritersguild.org/2016/08/11/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover/
https://www.wired.com/2014/09/makes-brilliant-book-cover-master-explains
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/book-cover-design-indies_n_3354504.html
http://www.graphic-design.com/DTG/Design/book_covers/index.html
http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/designing-book-covers/
http://www.iuniverse.com/Resources/Publishing-Distribution/CoverDesignEssentials.aspx

 

 

About Marin McGinnis

About Marin McGinnis Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or watching tweens skate around hockey rinks, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

  • OUR LATEST BUZZ!

    Lori Sizemore's Infamous released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, CUPCAKES & CUPID is available.