What Not to Do When You’re Not Going to Nationals

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Before reading this post, I recommend going back and reading Susan Meier’s post on Not Going to Nationals. Such a well-written and thoughtful post.

I’m afraid I can’t promise that for my post.

Over the past few months, I’ve been the unwilling target of pranking thanks to the creative imagination of my 8-year-old son and a TV show called “The Amazing World of Gumball.” I think the show should be more appropriately called “The Amazing World of Goofball.”


Salt in the sugar bowl. Songs and movies on my iPod changed/replaced with his own music. At a visit to the grocery store, I found him writing “I’m cold” on the clear glass of the cooler holding ice cream and whipped toppings.

I really can’t blame him. I’ve committed a prank or two in my life. And as I sit here missing my friends and colleagues, I’ve thought up some fun ways to let them know how much I miss them.

1) Text message someone: Guess who showed up for Nationals? I’m in the [unnamed] bar. Come meet me! :-)

2) Liven up the literacy signing. Call in some soldiers, doctors, on-duty firemen or even strippers to entertain the crowds and authors. This would work well for a workshop featuring a favorite author as well. And why not some cowboys? It is in Texas, after all.

3) Add an extra box of random books to someone’s incoming packages. To be honest, I’m not sure how well this would work. The way some of these hotels work, the recipient may never see the package.


Of course, I would never do any of this and wouldn’t recommend it. I will be writing, chatting up patients on the phone and starting a countdown until next year. I plan to be in New York.

What would you do to let a friend know you miss them at Nationals? Prank or no prank ideas accepted.

Abbi :-)

Not Going to Nationals? (Sniff, Sniff)

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Last year, I had a grand time at RWA Nationals. A Rita finalist, I was invited to parties, had people buy me drinks, had editors woo me. I bought new clothes and shoes. Drank champagne. Listened to some great PAN workshops.

This year…clears throat…I can’t go. :( There’s only so much conference money in the budget and I decided to go to a few cheaper conferences over a one big expensive one. And a few days ago I was seriously regretting that decision. I want to go! I want to see my friends!  I LIKE talking to editors. Wah!

So how does one get through the “I can’t go to RWA blues”?

1. Dress up. (Seriously) Instead of staying in your pj’s wallowing in misery, at least put on nice jeans and a spiffy shirt.

2. Do your work. You may not be able to go to Nationals, but you are still a writer. A good writer. Some of you are FABULOUS writers. Remind yourself by writing all week.

3. Keep up with tweets and facebook posts about the conference. Interact. Enjoy others’ enjoyment. :)

4. Take an online class. It may be too late to enroll … but find some blogs. Go to my blog site susanmeier@blogspot.com. I’ve got lots of short how-to-write posts…Dig in the archives. You’ll find some great stuff…but, my point, is engage yourself the way your friends and peers are being engaged. Learn something. :)

5. Buy alcohol. I’m going for a nice white zinfandel. Have a glass a night, then go on Facebook or twitter and look for your at-conference friends. Toast with them.

6. Realize that you may be going next year. You could even make that a goal and begin saving now. :) And do a little daydreaming.

7. Find me on Facebook and we will have a heck of a good conversation about going next year, what we’re writing, where we think the industry is going…especially if I’m already enjoying my zinfandel. :)


Happy Reading… susan meier

San Antonio Tweet Up

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Hey Chocolate Box Fans! Are you attending the RWA Conference in San Antonio next week?  If so, why not join us for a Chocolate Box Tweet Up!

When: Thursday, July 24  8:30-9:00 pm

Where: Pool side, Marriott Rivercenter

Samantha Hunter, Ami Weaver, Donna Alward, Shirley Jump and Barbara Wallace invite you to come hang and say hi before the Harlequin PJ Party.  You won’t be able to miss us – we’ll be the girls in the Chocolate Box t-shirts!

Can’t make the tweet up?  That’s okay – be sure to stop by and say hello at Wednesday’s Literacy Signing.  Donna, Barbara and Shirley will be signing books.

Morning Person? Not Quite, by Samantha Hunter

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morningThere have been a lot of times in my years when I woke up at the crack of dawn every day, for many years to make the 25-30 mile commute to school, and then to my teaching job. There were the years when my son was small, and he was a morning child, getting up way too early for my taste (until he reached teenage years, and then I couldn’t pry him out of bed with a crowbar). I would wake up early, and often be in bed late, but I was a lot younger then. Overall, I am not a morning person, though there are advantages to being up early.

This summer, when the sun started shining in a little before six am, I’d wake up early, or on a hot day, we’d get up early on purpose to take the dog out before it got too warm. Some days I even enjoy it — getting up early literally adds hours to my day that I often complain about needing. I enjoy the increased exposure to light and sunshine, and can sometimes get out in the garden or read over coffee. But more often than not, I don’t like it. I like staying up at night, just until midnight, maybe, to watch some TV and then read. Then, sleeping until 730-830 is perfect. I never really sleep later than that, and I don’t usually stay up past midnight. Naps are not common — once I’m up, I’m up. Bumorningevening-people-300x292t this is my natural schedule, the one I fall into most easily. Going to bed early, or getting up early, takes effort.

Still, there are days like today where a morning appointment pushed an early wake-up, and early walk, and cut my coffee time in half, allowing me to get all of my exercise in before ten with time to spare to do things like email and this blog before noon. This is good, but I don’t really like it. I like the extra time, but all in all, I miss the extra evening time I have on the other side of the day, for reading and such.

Then I saw this graphic on the qualities of morning and evening people; since I see myself as balanced between both, I think I have qualities on both sides of the line, actually. I am neither an early bird nor a night owl, I guess. I also rarely write in the morning or the evening, except when my husband is traveling, sometimes. I am a flat-out afternoon writer.

What about you? Are you naturally a morning or evening person, or like me, a little of both? Do you find yourself changing your schedule with the seasons, or with external demands? What is your ideal schedule?


Summer is for Picnics

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We’ve had a very crazy summer this year. My daughter-in-law went into labor early, so our grandchild was born a month early. I had two books due (TWO), one June 1 and one July 1. Just as I got book 2 in, edits for book 1 landed.  My son’s dog needed surgery and I have a six-month doctor checkup that I’ve cancelled so many times it will actually be closer to a year when I see him. LOL

All in all that made for a way-too-busy couple of months. So when my mom told me she was hosting a family reunion, I groaned. Seriously. Not only did I have to make food, but I just wasn’t in the mood to socialize.

But isn’t that the great thing about family? Socializing isn’t a chore when you’re with the people who have seen you in four different (increasing) sizes of bathing suit (last year) and know the colors of your Velcro curlers.

Exhausted, I got myself a glass of sangria and dragged an Adirondack chair under a shade tree. Within twenty minutes I had fifteen people who’d dragged chairs beside mine. (My family’s kinda big.) And we talked about everything from breaking up with girlfriends to the best age to get married and whether or not soccer would ever really catch on in the US. (My nephew insists it won’t…I say it will.)

We drank three punch bowls of Sangria. Laughed at the kids playing softball with a plastic bat. And in general just breathed fresh air.

Real family does’t care if your hair is straight and your butt is big. Real family sees when you’re tired. Real family just enjoys the pleasure of your company.

And that’s what picnics are all about. A little wine. A little rest. A little fresh air. A time to catch up with the people you love best in the world.

Happy Reading…

susan meier


Her Irresistible Protector…with Michelle Douglas

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This month sees the release of my very first duet! The Wild Ones: What will it take to tame these rebels? I grin every time I read that tag line. So to celebrate, below is a sample from Book 1—Her Irresistible Protector—which is out now. And a chance to win a signed copy of the book… Keep reading for the details. ;-)


Set up: Tash and Mitch have some serious history behind them. Eight years ago Mitch, who was a young police constable at the time, arrested Tash’s best friend…using information she’d innocently provided. Tash has never forgiven him. Fast forward eight years and it’s clear that Tash is in  physical danger from an unknown party. She not only finds herself whisked away to Mitch’s beachside cabin but discovers he’s her bodyguard for the duration of the operation. To say she’s ticked off is to put it mildly. In this scene they’ve recently arrived at the cabin, and Mitch has just called Tash in from a swim (that she’s taken in an attempt to cool off) for lunch.


‘The NSW Police Force is doing everything it can to keep you safe! Would it seriously hurt you to show some gratitude?’

‘If it were any other officer here then there’d be no problem on that head. Get another officer down here today and I’ll show all the gratitude you want!’

Mitch’s face twisted and his voice rose. ‘It’s school holidays. There isn’t another damn person available unless I call Peters in from her holiday with her kids. Is that what you want?’

Tash almost said yes, but in all conscience couldn’t.

He slashed a hand through the air. ‘Rick has timed this perfectly!’

It was as if he’d hurtled her back eight years—back to the confusion, the pain and the rage. The helplessness. The realisation of what she’d done. The realisation of what he’d done. ‘Rick is innocent you block-headed idiot!’ she screamed as loud as she could.

His eyes blazed like blue fire. ‘You’re the idiot—the blind idiot—where Rick is concerned.’

Every muscle bunched and tensed until she shook with it, frustration a murderous black bile in her blood. She not only knew how to disable a person, but how to make them scream with pain while she did it. And she wanted to make Mitch howl. Her hands clenched and her temples pounded with such force she thought her head would explode.

She clenched a fist…raised it.

And then her father’s image rose up in her mind and she went cold all over. She took a step back, her hand falling to her side, her chest rising and falling and burning. ‘I have never loathed anyone in all my life with the intensity I hate you, Officer Mitchell King.’

He paled.

‘I do not want to be here with you.’ She’d almost struck him! ‘What are my other options?’

‘There’s a safe house in Hornsby. You’d need to remain inside at all times, hidden.’ He swung away, raked a hand back through his hair. ‘I remembered how active you were—how much you hated being cooped up—and figured you’d prefer being out here.’

She swore and sat, rested her head in her hands for a bit. They couldn’t go on like this. She’d almost hit him! The thought of being cooped up in a hot sweaty suburb didn’t appeal one bit, though, either.

What on earth had happened to polite distance?

She lifted her head. She dragged in a breath. ‘What kind of sandwiches did you make?’

‘Ham and tomato.’

Her favourite. She reached into the basket and took one. ‘Thank you.’ But it came out stilted.

He sat then too, but he kept the basket between them. Wise. Very wise.

‘I’m sorry.’

She didn’t want an apology. She wanted him gone. You can’t have that. Get over it.

‘If I have this wrong and you’d prefer the safe house just say the word.

She considered it. Seriously considered it. She stared at the beach, the surf, the sky. Eventually she shook her head. ‘This,’ she gestured to the beach, ‘is better.’

A heavy silence descended.

Would you like to clear the air?

She set down her sandwich. Would it help?

Her chest cramped as she looked at him. ‘Do you know I never trusted another man after what you did?’

He bowed as if buffeted by a sudden breeze. ‘Tash.’


This pair has a LOT to work through. But as the charm of the isolated beach location works its magic, they start finding it harder and harder to resist the pull between them.

Do you like reading reunion romances with all of their sizzling undercurrents? Or perhaps you prefer it when the heroine and hero are strangers to each other at the beginning of a book? Leave a comment below to go into the draw to win a signed copy of Her Irresistible Protector.



Excerpt from Jackie Braun’s new time travel, Mine Tomorrow

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Out this month as part of a paranormal bundle from Harlequin is my first time travel novella, Mine Tomorrow, my first time travel novella. It’s set mainly in 1945 New York and features a handsome sailor returning from war and a vintage clothing store owner who finds herself whisked back in time … and into his arms.


Mine Tomorrow

By Jackie Braun

  “Devin! Devin!” The handsome young By Jackie Braunman shouted her name, reaching out his hand as he ran alongside the bus she was on. The gap between them widened and his voice grew desperate. “Come back! Please don’t leave!”

MineTomorrow_FC(2)     She stood and, gripping the edges of the seats to keep her balance, staggered up the aisle of the moving vehicle. It seemed to take forever to reach the front.

“Please, you must stop,” she begged the driver. “I must get off.”

The man merely shook his head. “Next stop is Grand Central. You need to take your seat, ma’am.”

When she looked out the window again, all she saw were cars. The man was gone.

“No! No! No!”

Devin Abernathy shot up on the mattress, gasping for breath. Her throat ached from screaming. She was alone in her apartment, a glance at the clock confirming that it was time to get up for work. But she couldn’t. Not yet. Lying back on the pillow, she covered her face with her hands and wept.

It was already nine o’clock when she arrived to open Yesterday’s Closet, the vintage clothing store she owned in New York’s East Village. Her younger sister was waiting outside, blowing on her bare hands and shuffling her feet to ward off the November chill. Emily was a sophomore at New York University, but she worked at the shop three mornings a week.

Seven years earlier, their parents had died in a car accident on their way home from a New Year’s Eve party. Devin, in college herself at the time, had moved from campus housing to a tiny efficiency apartment in Lower Manhattan to ensure that she and Emily, who had been barely thirteen, were able to stay together. It had been just the two of them ever since.

“I was getting worried,” Emily said.

“Sorry.” Devin unlocked the door and deactivated the alarm. As they walked inside, she added, “I overslept and missed my train.”

Another person might not have thought anything of the excuse. Emily, however, stopped in the process of unwinding the hand-knitted scarf from around her neck. Her expression reflected concern. “Everything okay, Dev?”

“I had the dream again.”

No need to be more specific than that. Her sister knew exactly the dream to which Devin referred. Devin had told her about it often enough. It featured a man, a very handsome man, who seemed achingly familiar, even though Devin couldn’t recall ever meeting him in real life.

It always began with him calling her name. She would turn and spy him a short distance away. As soon as their gazes connected, he would smile and start toward her. The situation was always different. One time they were on opposite sides of a street that had been closed for a parade. Another time she had been seated on a subway train while he stood on the crowded platform. And now the bus.

Regardless of the scenario, the dream appeared to take place during her favorite decade, the 1940s, and it always ended the same. He was never able to reach her before she woke.

The first time Devin had the dream she’d been a senior in college. She’d experienced it a couple more times before graduation, and then off and on ever since. During the past year, however, it had begun recurring more and more frequently.

“That makes three times this month,” Emily remarked.

“I know.”

“What happened this time?”

“Same thing as always. We never got together.” Lost in recollection, Devin frowned. “He seemed more frustrated in this one. As if the situation was…urgent.”

“Urgent how?”

Devin sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“I still say you should undergo hypnosis. Your subconscious is trying to tell you something.”

“Yes. It’s telling me I haven’t had a date in nearly a year.” Devin said it dryly, but in her heart she knew it was more than that. She couldn’t shake the feeling that time was running out. But for what?

New Year’s Resolutions…In July

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by Donna Alward

It sounds strange to think about New Year’s Resolutions in July, but that’s how I feel right now. I’m at the end of my current commitments, writing the last book in my contract, and in a spot where I’m looking back over the last 18 months and cautiously looking at the next year and a bit to come.

I’ve made some pretty big mistakes.

And I’ve been pretty awesome sometimes too.

Next week I’m giving a workshop at the RWA National conference about Keeping Your Sanity in an Ever-Changing Industry. Have I maintained sanity over the past eighteen months? At times it’s been a toss-up, no question. I think I’ve held it together where work is concerned, even though I got behind, which is really rare for me. I broke one of my own rules: don’t commit to more than you can deliver.

Still, all deadlines have been met except for this one last one, and being on the last book is a good feeling.

The stresses have largely come from that nebulous concept of “Balance” that we talk about so often and rarely achieve. Life got in the way. My schedule was based on no flies in the ointment, perfect conditions and no snags. And then snags happened. A bunch of them.

So what happened?

I put on nearly 20 lbs.  I felt oncoming burnout, and started requiring a nap most days—just twenty minutes or so, in the early afternoon, to keep me going the rest of the day.

The twenty pounds really bothers me. That being said, I’m not beating myself up about it. I got through the winter and spring, and it’s almost time to turn a new page. But, vain as it may sound, conference time is big for me. I think it all started with my first conference back in 2009, when I had a marvelous time and then saw the pictures of myself afterwards and cried. And what’s really crazy about that was that I’d already lost 17 lbs or so before I went to conference that year.

I didn’t go to conference in 2010, but I did go to New York in 2011…and loved the pictures of me. I felt healthy and strong. I’d lost 38 lbs total, and more than that I was in much better shape. In 2012 I was right around the same weight, and again last year too. In fact, last year I was slightly lighter but I didn’t like the pics as well because I could see where I didn’t have the same muscle definition.

And yeah, I feel like this year, I blew it.

But here’s the thing.  I could tell myself that I suck and really talk trash to myself, but I’m not going to. Because I know that this year I did the best I could. And I can’t change it. I also learned some lessons.  There’s not time to turn this around before conference, so I’ve made peace with that.  In my workshop, part of what I say is that while we KNOW what will help our stress levels, above all we have to be kind to ourselves. It doesn’t mean lying to ourselves, by the way. Or ignoring what is in front of our faces. It’s about accepting it and not beating ourselves up over it. I’m getting too old for that crap.

So what resolutions am I going to make?

First of all, work less. I’m not sure how I thought writing 9 books in an 18 month period was smart in the first place. Now that my “transition” year is over, I’m meeting with my agent and we’re going to talk career plan.  It will not involve that many books. J

Second on the list is be stronger. As in physically stronger. I miss healthy me. I’ve been focusing on eating less processed stuff for a while now, though my kid tells me I have a long way to go (everything has corn in it, by the way. It’s crazy). But the dh and I went out for lunch the other day and I actually felt sick most of the afternoon because it was too rich. I’ve started buying local a lot more, even if it means a higher price tag. We put in a vegetable garden.  I’m making my own bread. Go me.

But I need to get my cardio health back up to par and I really miss working with weights, so that’s on the agenda, particularly in September when everyone is back to school and we get on regular schedules again. I’m really not going to worry too much about this until my current book is in and I’ve had a vacation. Vacation is priority 1. I need a break to refill the well.

Third on the list is an all-encompassing commitment to walking the walk.  It stung a little when I was talking to my kid today and she said “Mom, you’ve been saying that for a year now.” The truth is, by over-committing myself, I’ve sometimes ended up going for “easy and fast” over making things from scratch simply because I don’t have time. Or I’ve been so busy carting kids around that trying to find time for a workout was crazy. Later this fall kid one will be able to drive herself—and go pick up her sister now and again too. Besides, if I have a slightly lighter schedule, I may actually be able to fit a workout into the morning. Imagine!

Anyway, I’m actually excited, because I know the shift is coming and I’m feeling a little more energized each day. I only had one mid-day nap all last week!

I’m going to post 2009 and 20011 pics of me, and who knows? Maybe next year I’ll post 2014 me and 2015 me. New York seems to be good for me that way, and conference is back there again next year.

And if you’re in San Antonio for the RWA conference, be sure to stop and say hi!


With Fi and the Harlequin Party, NYC 2011

With Fi and the Harlequin Party, NYC 2011

With Jennie Lucas, 2009

With Jennie Lucas, 2009

The Ballad of Captain Pete

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Capt Pete

Capt Pete

It was July 7, 2007 – the luckiest day of the year, or so people predicted.  Sans Souci, a Hunter 27 sailboat, set out from Westport, MA destined for Cuttyhunk Island. On board were Capt Pete and two close friends.

In 1971, Angela, a barge carrying 70,000 barrels of cement, was on route to Boston via the Cape Cod Canal when her tow line broke in a storm. The heavy current swung the barge onto Hens and Chicken Reef near Buzzards Bay, where she was impaled on the sharp rocks.  She’s still there – a favorite location for local divers looking to explore.

Little did anyone know that on July 7th, Angela would change Sans Souci’s destiny forever.

Captain Pete had sailed this route dozens of times and Angela was one of the highlights of the sail.  He loved to bring the boat close enough so his passengers could get a good view of the wreck.

Unfortunately, on this day, a gusty wind left the Atlantic choppy. With his boat heeled at 30 degrees, and cutting across the white caps, Captain Pete didn’t see the lobster pot marker.  The lobster line tangled with his rudder.  He tried to tack, but alas, he’d lost his ability to steer.  He was left helpless as the wind blew Sans Souci toward the reef – and Angela’s hull.

Sans Souci

Sans Souci in her glory days

The two boats collided, the force of impact pushing Sans Souci’s centerboard into the hull and cracking the bottom.  Within minutes, Sans Souci began taking on water.  Captain Pete issued a mayday.  By the time the rescue boat arrived, the cabin was flooded.  Workers attempted to tow the boat off the reef, but she was taking on water too fast.  A short while later, Sans Souci went down. The luckiest day of the year, it appeared, wasn’t lucky at all.

Fortunately, the story has a (somewhat) happy conclusion.  A few weeks later, Captain Pete came across a 31 foot Seafarer that had fallen in disrepair following the death of its owner.  Refurbishing her became a labor of love, and for the next seven years, the Captain worked at bringing her back to glory.

Finally, after years of hard work (and a great deal of patience from his wonderful wife) the boat, dubbed Horizon Bound, has been deemed seaworthy.  She heads to her mooring in Westport Harbor on July 18 – seven years and eleven days after Sans Souci’s last sail.

Captain Pete has no intention of going anywhere near Angela.


Barb Wallace would like to note that luckiest day of the year continued to be unlucky – and expensive – for her and Captain Pete.  Their cat was struck by a car later that evening and sustained a couple thousand dollars worth of injuries. (The cat would like to point out that it was actually quite a lucky day for her as she made it back home.)

Fortunately their luck took a turn for the better a week later when Barb won RWA’s Golden Heart Award on her birthday and began her publishing career.  You can read her latest effort, a serialized novella entitled THE MILLIONAIRE’S REDEMPTION, next month on Harlequin.com.

Chasing the Idea, by Samantha Hunter

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A frequent question authors get from readers is, Where do you get your ideas?

bulbI’ve usually answered this by referring to certain life experiences, like a vacation, or a TV show, or that sort of inspiration. But, I think I’ll have to start revising that answer. Time and many books – especially some recent ones — have proven how difficult and slippery ideas can be. Or even telling if what you have is an idea, or just a random thought. A red herring that will lead you astray. Having an idea — and having a workable, good idea that can turn into a book — are two different things sometimes.

Last year, I worked on a Blaze novella that I started brainstorming July. I didn’t start writing it with any clear idea, after many permutations of many faulty ideas – until late September, and then, the idea ripened as the book took shape over three more months of writing (yes, for a 20K novella). That book (being released in an anthology Dec 2014, “Holiday Rush”), came out very nicely, indeed. But I felt, when I finally came to it, as if I had scraped the bottom of the idea bowl. (Although one cool thing was that an idea I had way back at the start of the process and discarded became part of the subplot in the story’s final version.)

Then there was a full-length Blaze that I thought I had a solid idea for, since I’d written a proposal and chapters – except as I went further in, the initial idea wasn’t working the way I thought it would. Here is the problem when you get too attached to an idea, even when it’s not working — you think you can make it work. Two hundred pages of waste later and finally I saw the problem and was able to change the idea so it would work. Note to self: don’t spend two hundred pages trying to make an idea work. Change the idea.

Now it’s time to start a new book. I returned from a recent trip to NYC, I wanted to set a book there, so I came up with an idea I knew was a little weak, but I thought it could be fleshed out. My editor and I brainstormed around it, basically making it a whole new idea, and off I went to write. The basic idea didn’t work. I went back to the drawing board, and we threw more versions of the idea around, I hashed it over with friends on a brainstorming list, but it just wasn’t working. Frustrating! When trying to come up with a workable idea, I sometimes hit what I unglamorously call the “throwing enough *** against the wall to see what will stick” phase, and I don’t like that feeling at all.

So, I went to do the dishes and within five minutes, I had a neat idea and raced back to the laptop to email my editor. She liked it to, so that was settled. (see, I listened to myself after that two-hundred page lesson). I’m currently writing up the synopsis, and so far so good, but I’ve learned (especially if you are a pantser like me), you never really know if an idea will work until you set it in motion.

I think I might tell people who ask about ideas now, that it takes a lot of ideas to get through a story – what you start with is just, well, the spark. A book is really a chain of ideas, and if the initial idea is poor in some way, or has not been executed correctly, the chain fails. Then you have to go investigate every single link, and sometimes build a whole new chain. The initial moment of inspiration is that thing we attribute to a vacation, a TV show, or some event or observation that makes us think “this can be a book.” But it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Writers have to take that and turn it into a real idea (and I think the thing about a good idea is that it’s rich enough to suggest all the other ideas you need to write the story).

This is part of why I dread beginning new books. Some people love that stage of the process, and other profess to have more ideas than they can keep up with, but that’s not me. It takes me some time to come up with what I think is a usable idea, and then it’s a lot of work to get any one of those to the point of being an idea worthy of a book. It’s the most precarious part of the job, I think, and for me, often the most stressful.

Where do you come up with your ideas, and how do you tell a good one from a lousy one? Do you find idea-making generally fun, or frustrating and hard work?