Hey Author – Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

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Every author gets hit with this question and one thing we authors don’t often admit is that a lot of our ideas are actually pretty dumb.

No, seriously. Here’s an example of a dumb idea of mine:

My sleepless side for seven nights has kept me thinking about the person I used to be. Something snapped, like a dried out twig or an arc of electricity. And it isn’t a desperate change that overtakes me; it’s more of a gradual thing, like a passing shadow when the moon is full and round fat and silence is your only companion.

For others, it’s their mortal enemy.

I welcome my darker nature like an old friend. It caresses my face and whispers a promise that I know full well is another lie, but lies are far easier to believe when the truth of your life grinds you into bite sized pieces and consumes every last ounce of your spirit. I believe in those lies now, with all my heart. I have to because of what I am and what I become.

Um … barf.

While it reads well, the sad fact is this dumb idea has been done already by people better than me. Here’s a pair of examples of where this idea is done brilliantly:

So yeah, darker nature manifests in book format. In this case, my big brilliant idea was to be a YA project and after writing a few chapters it occurred to me that I was writing The Incredible Hulk in teen form. That’s how it goes, by the way. We authors might think something is a fabulous idea but once we sit down and start slamming away at the keyboard, a lot of us can tell very quickly whether our “next big thing” is going to be the next thing on of flash drive called “crap ideas”.

At the same time, most authors report finding inspiration for stories in everyday life. The office, the marriage, the kids, something we saw while driving down the highway. Sometimes it’s a news story and other times we’re so inspired by a brilliant book by another author that we’re tempted to try our hand at a theme another author has hit on in their bestselling novel. Everyone wants to do their take on vampires, werewolves, zombies, superheroes. dystopia, utopia, time travel, pre-history, etc.Welcome to the world of genre fiction where the subject matter is the same but the characters are different. Where the superheroes live in a different world from what we see in traditional comic books and where a mystery is still a mystery – only there’s our own different approach in solving it as we plot out the story.

Inspiration and influence – I think that’s what it’s called. We are inspired by other fabulous authors and their stories. We are influenced to try to establish our own mark on the familiar. It’s important to remember that a lot of what we write might not even be marketable. This is because we are creating art in a world that is governed by the fundamental truth of capitalism: return on investment.

Publishers need to see a return on investment if they plan to take on a project that you’ve completed. And that’s the big crap shoot, isn’t it? It’s why the VAST majority of books don’t earn out their advances. It’s why publishers are looking to publish stuff they think is going to sell rather than to take a chance on a brilliantly written story by an author nobody has heard of. And it’s probably one of the reasons there are so many authors deciding to take a chance on self-publishing. It’s also one of those things that makes many authors decide to simply walk away from writing books entirely – because so much work goes into writing a book. It might flop. It might wind up being pilloried on Goodreads amid a haze of animated gifs posted by reviewers who think with pictures are excellent methods by which to critique a published work that someone put years into.

It’s a weird time in publishing right now and still a lot of us cling to the hope that one of our books will hit paydirt. And that book will lead to a series. And that series will lead to who-knows-what?

And I think that’s why I try like crazy to blot out the doom and gloom surrounding the book business these days. My ideas for stories come from to words: “What If”. That’s sort of how I think out an idea for a story and then I’ll write a few thousand words to see if it actually works. It’s sort of like the authorly equivalent of taking a car for a test drive. Does it make sense? Does it flow? Does it create a hero’s journey? Do I actually give a crap about the characters? If I get a “yes” for all these questions, then I will continue writing. I’m lucky as hell in that I have an agent to bounce ideas off. I also have a spouse who is very practical about what’s good and what sucks monkeybutt because she’s from the farm. And on the farm in the winter time when you don’t have cable TV growing up, guess how you spend your time? Yup. Reading.

Reading everything and anything that can get you as far the hell away from the farm as you can possibly get. My wife Cheryl is a reading machine and my ultimate sounding board for a book idea. She has, thankfully, stomped on most of my terrible ideas and she’s cheered me on for the good ones.

So, there you have it. That’s where ideas come from for this story hack. No magic pill. No miraculous inspiration. Just a lot of trial and error and experimentation.

Happy Friday!

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I’m Organizing a Blog Tour for STUDENT BODIES!

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Want in on it? I’m looking at doing something from 19 August right on up to 3 September 2013. We can do interviews, YouTube stuff, there will be giveaways and some swaggage. Sound like you, dear Blogger? Well then click “CONTACT US”, fill out the form and I will be in touch!
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Hey look … it’s a cover reveal for a book I wrote.

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Behold the epic awesomness that is Paul Young’s gorgeous cover for my forthcoming STUDENT BODIES. Things take a terrifyingly dark turn in this sequel to my YA urban fantasy thriller, POLTERGEEKS.

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(Click Image to Enlarge)

Whoever said being a teenage witch would be easy? For fifteen-year-old Julie Richardson and the city’s resident protector from supernatural evil, the Left Hand Path doesn’t give a damn if you’ve found true love for the first time in your life. There’s someone lurking the halls of Crescent Ridge High School with enough malice to unleash an epidemic of Soul Worms – supernatural larvae that feed on the very fabric of a victim’s humanity. 

After witnessing the death of one of the most popular kids at school, Julie and über genius boyfriend Marcus are in a race against time to find out who is behind the attacks. All the evidence points to a horrifying plot at the City Weir during the Winter Solstice; the place where icy waters of the Bow River and a thunderous spillway will mean the deaths of more than a hundred of Julie’s classmates. 

If she has any hope of saving their lives, she’ll need a little help from a coven of white witches and an Aboriginal mage whose snarky attitude is matched only by her magical prowess.

You can pre-order it all overtheplace.

And for a limited time, you might luck out and get an ARC on Netgalley. It’ll be in bookstores on September 3, 2013.

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It’s Canada Day – Here’s Some Of The Best Canadian YA

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We’re 146 years old today – go us!

You know, if you ask a lot of people to name the first thing that pops into their head when you ask them about Canada, you’ll hear:

1) We live in igloos

2) Wayne Gretzky (who has been retired from hockey for the past fourteen years)

3) We’re very polite unless you diss Wayne Gretzky or worse, Bobby Orr.

 

We do have some literary giants though – the obvious one that comes to mind is Margaret Atwood. There’s Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro and my personal fave, Mordecai Richler. But what about those Canadian authors who aren’t writing literary fiction and instead are digging into YA?  We have some tremendous talents and I’m going list a few for your reading pleasure.

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody . . . and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school. But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme is threatened. So when Tim asks her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, Cass reluctantly agrees. As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad—and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance. . . .

 

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade (Go Saskatoon!)

When Mr. Socrates, a member of the shadowy PermanentAssociation, hears of a hunchbacked infant with theability to transform his appearance, he decides to take him in.Naming him Modo, he raises the boy in isolation, training himto become a secret agent. Then, when Modo turns fourteen,his education is complete. He is transported to the streets ofdowntown London and abandoned, penniless, to try to survive.

But Modo is resourceful, and he finds a way to get by,keeping to himself . . . until one day, when the beautiful OctaviaMilkweed knocks on his door. Soon, with the help of Mr.Socrates, Modo and Octavia find themselves uncovering a sinisterplot being carried out in the very sewers beneath their feet.Will they be able to stop the mad scientist Dr. Hyde before heunleashes his monstrous plans upon unsuspecting Londoners?

PS – Arthur Slade is a Governor General Award winner whose novel DUST should be required reading in Canadian classrooms.

 

40 Things I Want To Tell You by Alice Kuipers (Go Saskatoon!)

Amy (a.k.a. Bird) seems to have the perfect life: loving parents, a hot boyfriend, the best friend ever. She even writes an online advice column, full of Top Tips, to help other teens take control of their lives. But after a new guy shows up at school, Bird can’t seem to follow her own wisdom.

Pete is the consummate bad boy. He’s everything Bird is not: wild, unambitious and more than a little dangerous. Although she knows he’s trouble, Bird can’t stay away. And the more drawn she is to Pete, the more cracks are revealed in her relationship with Griffin, her doting boyfriend. Meanwhile, her parents’ marriage is also fracturing, possibly for good.

Bird is way out of her comfort zone. All it takes is one mistake, one momentary loss of control, for her entire future to be blown away . . .

 

This Dark Endeavor – The Apprenticeship Of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother, Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. Yet his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

 

Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston

Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She’s smart, but a bit of a slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker … but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins.

Now, with a single thoughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there’s still time— literally—maybe even get a date.

 

And hey … if you really want to dig into Canadian Middle Grade & YA talent, check out The Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award list. There’s a ton of awesome books written by Canadians.

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To Shane on his 23rd Birthday

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shane3

That’s you circa 1993. Today you turned 23 and you’re now officially older than I was when you were born in 1990. Thankfully you haven’t made me a grandfather yet because I’m not psychologically prepared for that big ugly mortality check. But you know what? I think you’ll make a great dad one day when the time is right. Because, you see, your heart is genuinely in a good place. I think that’s a testament to your character because you had one tumultuous childhood. Yet somehow, you’ve grown up to become a young man that I’m really rather quite proud of. Even if you’re losing your hair like your crazy old dad. Why are you a fantastic young man? Because you work your ass off every single day to make money for yourself.

shane4You have a remarkable work ethic. You’re a great guy because you have a sense of humor that can light up the room with laughter when you let it out. I’m proud of you because you’re the kind of man who thinks about what needs to be said before saying it rather than one who flaps his gums at every opportunity. (I was that guy at your age. Ask your mother.)

I’m proud of you for a thousand and ten reasons that would put most people to sleep, but mostly, I’m proud of you for your resiliency amid life’s ups and downs. I wish that your life won’t have ’em … but God knows, it’ll flatten you when you’re least expecting it so keep your guard up. Just be wise, son.

And dream big, huge, massive dreams. Okay? Do that for your dad. Those dreams of what might be will sustain you when things look bleak. You can accomplish so much and I hope that you aim for your heart’s desire. It took me twenty more years to figure that one out. Hell, I got four books published and I’m an idiot. You’re way smarter than me, so imagine what you can accomplish!!

One last thing, kiddo: your father loves you and always will. Got it?

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