Whoa-Whoa, It’s Magic….or “Where do your ideas come from?”


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This is a softball/cotton candy kinda post.

In all honesty, my resources are stretched so thin at this point, I really don’t have much else to spare but thoughts as thin as lightly floating wisps of super-heated pink sugar. So please forgive the lameness of this post.

Sitting in my chilly living room this morning, I indulged in one of my MANY vices, watching terrible movies instead of working. On the television: Timeline starring Paul Walker and Billy Connolly. Opposite my television, on the computer monitor: a certain story that has been the bane of my existence for nearly two years now.

Image Source:Timeline 2003Paramount Pictures

Image Source:
Paramount Pictures 2003

It is not the quality or depth of this particular Richard Donner/Michael Crichton movie that keeping me from working. No, nothing that simple.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was ignoring my computer…..

The final edit I am working on is a particular story that has been the hardest of all the twelve tales in Survival Pod #1 & 2 to work on. It is one of the few times I honestly don’t see the vision my editor has in mind with her corrective notes. So I found it easy to get lost in the movie instead of working.

I have full faith in my editor and her skills. I agree with her totally, the story is missing something. However, the direction she advised has proven problematic for several reason, one of which is I have never written a story with these type of undertones and emotions in it.

Not being one to back down from a challenge, as far as my writing goes, I refuse to give up despite the magnitude of this Sisyphean mental challenge. So again, its time to “Switch the Flip! or Get The Pig!”.

While my mind figures out how to do this, I decided to answer a question I get on a pretty regular basis, “How do you come up with your story ideas?” with today’s blog post.

I have heard many an author answer this question and I don’t think I have ever heard a response I was satisfied with. Knowing that piece of knowledge does not set the bar very high for this post, does it?

Regardless, I will try to explain my process as best I can.

Most of the time, ideas come about organically.

Image Source:Encyclopedia Brittanica 2006

Image Source:
Encyclopedia Brittanica 2006

Someone around me will say something or I will read an interesting article that takes seed in my mind and grows into something. Sometimes movies or music will lend inspiration, causing me to move on an idea or thought process that was already hidden inside but didn’t have the momentum to take hold. These are generic processes that everyone has the ability to do and you as a writer should be very familiar with.

The creative magic happens after the seed has taken root. When one starts to tear apart the who, what, where, when, and why of an idea. It is in the resulting mess that hopefully a story will appear.

One of the ways I do this is by taking things out of context and putting them where they don’t belong.

Take this morning as an example:

While watching Timeline I started thinking about roving armies circa. The Hundred Years Wars. Vast peasant armies, forced into services by their lords, spreading across the French countryside rampaging and pillaging.

From there I start to wonder what it would be like if that were to happen today. Literally, a planet Earth where warlords march across modern countries like America. Would it be a modern civilization that never broke from feudalism and still accepted the rules of medieval combat tactics?

Image Source:Paramount Pictures 2003

Image Source:
Paramount Pictures 2003

What would the world be like if the Magna Carte had never been written or signed? How does one survive in an America that never knew modern democracy, fed instead by blood borne of the brutal yoke from a feudalistic system of government?

Why would the Duke of Georgia march his armies across the south, razing every town in his path? What would Detroit look like if it were under siege for years, like a combat action during the Crusades? Would a peasant from New York give a hoot about the shadow of court in Washington as long as his lord didn’t call for his service in the fields of war?

See what I mean?

The details don’t matter at the starting point, that moment when the idea sparks to life. Once the ball starts rolling, details like: characters, story arcs, plot twists, will all come naturally as the process roars to life. Once you really start to think about an idea, in this case by taking something out if its ordinary environment and placing it into a situation that seems completely alien, a great story can quite literally appear out of your head.

(Not that I’m saying any story about medieval armies marching across the American South is on the hit list for Survival Pod Issues #3 or 4)

By exploring changes in perspective, context, or environment and not just the who, what, when, where, how, and why of an idea during the initial creation stages, a writer can discover a multitude of fruitful paths to wander down when brainstorming.

Remember: the story is already in your head, sometimes to bring it to life you just need to “Switch the Flip!”

The seed can come from anywhere, the key is giving it the right environment to grow in. Imagination, an open mind, and persistence is the best fertilizer for a story to grow in.

In mathematical terms that would be: A glimmer of interest + bullshit + hard work = a story.

What you do with the story after that is up to you.


Camptown Ladies Sing this Song Do-Dar, Do-Dar….or “I’m in it deep now.”


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With the birth of bright, beautiful new year, I’m saying it.

I’m not feeling the New Year buzz.

Boris Artzybasheff1899-1965

Boris Artzybasheff

In fact I feel mired down in a crisis my own indecision helped to create.

Having been working on Survival Pod Issues One and Two for a year now, I have to admit my determination has been challenged over the holidays. My inability to get the Kickstarter project started on time really has had an echoing affect on my progress to date. Release dates have been pushed back, the final edits weren’t complete until after Christmas, and now with the new release date barrelling down on me like a freight train….well you get the picture right?

Choo-Choo Bitch....

Choo-Choo bitches….

Add on the fact that winter sucks every last particle of positive energy out of me just so I can make it through the short, dark days and frigid nights; generally I’m left sitting in front of my keyboard, dreaming about new stories and not really getting much else done.

Of the twelve stories in the collection, three are completely finished and waiting for a final read by my official test subject. A fourth story is about two thirds of the way through the re-write but that leaves eight stories to work on post-edit, get the final read in, format, illustrate, and submit for release at Amazon and Smashwords in Fifteen days.

The mounting work load from the final edit has levied a permanent concrete collar of tense muscles at the base of my neck along with many sleepless night and an almost perpetual headache for my troubles. Quicksand would be kinder…

Image Source: Warner Bros."Blazing Saddles" 1974

Image Source: Warner Bros.
“Blazing Saddles” 1974

Now given that I am an Apgar, who are notorious for our ability to stay in a fight way too long, I have still not resigned myself to the idea of having to push the release date back again. So I keep on chugging through, hoping I’ll hit a wellspring of energy and creativity that will carry me through the next two weeks and on through the finish line.

Word of advice for the aspiring writer in this “new media” age. I have been in the writing game for a long time, the majority of my adult life, trying to find my way in the door; sometimes in the most obscure of ways. I truly believe the birth of this new path on the road of communication and creativity will lead to a new golden age of writing….but don’t fool yourself.

This “new” path to publishing is just as full of hazards and pitfalls as the one that swept so many other writers under the rug for thousands of years. The three essential truths are still the same: If you don’t put in the time, it will fail. If you rush it, it will fail. If it is bad, it will fail.

Who Smothers Brothers 1967

In the words of the immortal WHO: Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss….

The boss is the people you are selling it to.

Yes, it’s easier now to get your stuff out to the public but guess what? If you didn’t put the time in, grind through round after round of editing, and actually have some form of talent; you stories have the same lifespan as that of a Pete Townesend guitar circa. 1968, a.k.a. NONE.

I’ve been down that road, not listening to editors, wasting one’s time releasing before its ready, confusing ambition with talent.

Never again.

Even if I have to grind till there is nothing left but me and the wheel, I will never make that mistake again.

Burning The Yule Log At Both Ends or “Man, that don’t smell like no Yule log…”


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Image Source: AnnieInfinite.com

Image Source: AnnieInfinite.com

Christmas is always a time of great trepidation and strife ’round the ol’ homestead.

B and I have a tendency to stress each other out to the absolute limits during the holiday season and generally it has a lot to do with the build up to Christmas. See, neither of us came from wealthy backgrounds; both of us growing up in true blue collar, steel belted homes where the money was always tight but the holidays were bountiful.

As a child, one does not think of the planning, preparation or expense that goes along with making a Christmas “Merry”. And why should they? This holiday is supposed to be about supreme joy, regardless of religious affiliation. We as a species made it through another year speeding through the universe; overcoming all obstacles that stood in our path and these holidays are suppose to reflect the happiness that comes with surviving.

So, despite the fact that both of us combined make less than any of our parents made at our age, B and I go out of our way to provide the best possible Holiday for our kids that we can. Generally this taps us out financially, which creates tension, which creates stress, which leads to drama. (We are both very good at drama…)

Add in the tension of the books coming back from the editor for final edit and prep for release in January…

Image Source: Cheezburger.com

Image Source: Cheezburger.com

I am wound tighter than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

This having been said…I am going to bury my head in my editing project and wait out the apocalypse or the holidays, which ever one comes first.

So to all you out there: Have a HAPPY HOLIDAYS or a quick Roasty-Toasty End of Days!

Either way, talk to you on January 1st 2013!


Northwest or Bust…Or “Man, I love this weather!”


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I have no idea what happened to the weather here in Minneapolis but I’m not complaining.

I don’t know if the gray, chilly days just resonates with some ancestral memory but I love 50 degrees mornings when there is a light mist in the air. If this is really what it’s like to live in Seattle or Portland than I gotta’ do some serious thinking about moving out west…After the Mayan thing passes, of course.


I know all my brothers and sisters here in the TC hate this weather. I can hear their grumbling at coffee shops and bus stops, “Where’s the Snow?”

My response…I don’t care. I’m not gonna shed tears over a brown Christmas.

So, stop being a grumpalumpicious and get over it. The snow will get here, just like it always does. There is no need to frustrate yourself because you want to drag a shed out onto some ice for fishing or your cross country skies are cover in dust.

Nature doesn’t answer to us, which leads me to some thoughts on writing.

I have had a spectacularly great week of story creation. I even had one story unkink itself after almost three years of trying to write it. The story in question actually means a lot to me and has caused years of frustration trying to figure out why I couldn’t actually finish it.

In the end, I was so steeped with frustration in my head around not finishing it, I couldn’t see it had nothing to do with my abilities as a writer. I have the skills and talent to see the story in my head, the problem is sometimes when creating things it is possible to be looking at it from the wrong angle and have no idea that by just shifting the perspective can give you the answer.

To quote the immortal Marvin Boggs, (John Malkovich’s character in the movie “Red“):

Switch the Flip

Image Source: Marvin Boggs | Tumblr

Sometime you gotta “switch the flip“…or “Get the pig!

Either option works in my opinion.

Sometimes changing the perspective on a story opens it up like dancing with just the right person as your favorite song comes on. It’s almost like falling in love for the first time all over again.

Remember months ago when I wrote about putting things away and coming back to work on them later? This is how you gain perspective. Creativity is not a patent pending manufacturing process, sometimes whatever it is you are working on is just not ready to be finished yet.

Can you rush the mighty oak? Is it possible to tell the sun to rise earlier in the morning? Why do so many writers try to force the process? Just like the sun rising in the east and the might oak growing to the sky, everything has a lifespan.

We, as writers, give birth to our creations and like the uncomfortable, very pregnant mother in her last days and weeks of the gestation process; sometimes we wish for the whole process to be done. We forget that nothing you rush will ever be as good as it might have been if just left it to its natural processes.

That story in your drawer that just won’t end or doesn’t flow right now; that might be your opus ten years down the road. But, you will never know unless you let it happen naturally.

Classic example:

In this interview for Scribner and his website StephenKing.com, the Master talks about how this magnificent story actually came to life in 1973 but he put it away for almost forty years before letting it come to life in its present incarnation.

This is a man who has made a living off of inundating the market with his work and yet in the dust covered cabinets and drawers of his office there are hidden jewels just biding their time, each knowing when they will be ready to be finished.

Take heart writer…It isn’t a reflection of your skill or expertise. It’s just nature.

Every time you put down a story, try to give yourself a break and think about it in positive terms. Much like the mythical “Hound of Resurrection”; Samael from Hellboy the movie, for every story that falls, two more will rise up in its place.

Image Source: hellboy.wikia.com

Image Source: hellboy.wikia.com

If you believe that, it will happen.

You know why? Because the stories are already in you, just waiting to come out.

Alright, enough of that.

Don’t forget…This holiday season there are thousands of people out there could use a little Yuletide cheer, so give. Give to the bell ringers, give to the scouts, give to Hurricane Sandy relief, give to your local shelters or your favorite charity.

Just make sure to give.

Give to the American Red Cross Today!

Give to the American Red Cross Today!

Turn The Tiller South Master Chief…or “Things are getting depressing ’round here.”


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You can always tell when I’m in a funk…The music in the background will always tell you exactly where I’m at.

It’s in the quiet afternoon, when all the drama and insanity that is my life is replaced by sleeping cats, comforting sunbeams, and peaceful consoling moments, that you can hear my inner voice call out in other people’s words set to music. My life is truly at the whim of my emotions sometimes and can be easily transformed into a razor sharp pit of emotional bloodletting by just the right song or phrase.

It’s these days, when depression wins the fight over reason and the gentle lullaby of Mazzy Star or the drumming march of Mumford and Sons can force even the best hidden pain back out into the spotlight, that I find the hardest to overcome as age takes it toll.

This post is not for everyone; although by now I think most people are touched in some way by those who suffers from depression. No, this is for those out there that with ink in their veins; sitting silently or screaming madly at the walls, as you suffer much in the same way I do.

It doesn’t matter the cause or severity, if at some point in your life you’ve felt the bottom drop out, then you have been there. Thinking back on it, when it was at its worst, you know how hard it can be just to sit down in your chair to work at the center of that storm.

That’s where I’m at today.

There are a million reasons and none. All of which means absolutely nothing in the long term because knowing the “why” doesn’t change where you are at. It’s only the scrambling free from the pit that matters when you are looking up at the lip of the hole. Or it used to be…

My depression reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit“; in which an army office wakes to find himself trapped in a cylinder with a clown, a ballerina, a Highlander, and a hobo. Some have been trapped at the bottom for so long that they cannot get behind the energy and fervent manner in which the “Major” tries desperately to escape their fate.

I’m one of those characters; probably the hobo, and today I feel as if I have been at the bottom of the can for so long, that there doesn’t seem to be a point in trying to escape.

I know this; like everything else, is transitory and hopefully tomorrow a new set of challenges, adventures, and experiences will take hold of me so I can set my sights on the horizon.

But today I’m at the bottom of the can.

So take care of yourselves this Thanksgiving week loyal readers, love one another, and be thankful you still have the energy to try and escape. Go chase your adventures!

Til’ next week!