"Where do you get your ideas?" I'm sitting at a book group, with my hands around the paper cup of tea. The scent of it along with the smell of books and wet wool make for a cozy experience.
This isn't the first time that I've been asked this question. With books titled things like Epidemic people often wonder if I've had experience as a nurse (I haven't) or after reading Subversion, ask if I've ever really led a secret life as a vigilante (I can't tell you that). :)
The idea for Shadow in the Woods though, came about in a very normal way. It all started with an article that I wrote for a magazine. The topic? Ecotherapy. You can read the blog article on ecotherapy for more background information.
While ecotherapy is a fascinating topic, I never imagined it being made into a book ... not at the time anyway.
That is how the best ideas start though, through a small kernel of information. I can usually tell if an idea is a good one, because I can't stop thinking about. The idea for Epidemic came to me while sitting in a pandemic emergency response training at the local hospital.
There I was, doodling in my notebook when I thought, "what if?" What if this really did happen here, in this rural town in Vermont? And what if the reason wasn't because of a natural turn of events, but something more sinister? (Cue the creepy music or just watch this for more details.)
"So, how do you know when an idea is a good one?"
That's a good question. I guess for me, it's when the idea just has to be written. I have lots of ideas (lots and lots--the movement in my brain resembles popcorn most days) but not all of them could or should be made into books.
But when I come across an idea that just won't leave me be, that's when I sit up and pay attention. And sometimes it takes some false starts to get going. I wrote the first draft of what I'm calling "The Creepy Doll Book," and I'm not sure it will ever be published. Maybe. Hopefully. But it needs a lot of work and re-writing to make it really good.
One method that writers use is to write a short story first, before delving into a full-length novel. That's a great idea. Another is to write just a chapter or two (not necessarily at the beginning) of a book and gauge how you feel about it. Do you love it and want to keep going? Do you lose interest after that one or two chapters is written?
Novellas would be another way to "test the waters" and see if your full-length book idea has merit. I haven't yet written one but would like to.
Think about it this way: when you are looking for a book to read, don't you often pick it up (or look at the preview online) and read a few pages or a chapter to see if you'll like it? The same can be true in novel writing. Authors can always start small and see where it goes. Or jump in with both feet like I do ... and then prepare yourself for a lot of editing!
Really excited to be one of the featured authors in Ellen Seltz's fun newsletter this month. You might remember Ellen from this guest blurb that was recently on the blog.
Ellen write's (in part): "And if spooky suspense is your thing, you'll love this nail-biter!
JP Choquette writes novels that turn pages, not stomachs. Her tense tales are Gothic, not gory, and Shadow in the Woods is a great introduction."
Grateful for the mention ... and off to organize my TBR pile which includes Mr. Mottley Gets His Man. :)
It's happened to all of us: there you are, innocently reading your current spine-tingling mystery when wham! Out of nowhere something really disturbing happens. Maybe it's when the story dips into gratuitous violence, or when the child is kidnapped or the animal is tortured ... but whatever it is, you're left feeling nauseous.
Unlike with movies or TV shows, readers don't always get the same cues that something unnerving like this is going to happen. There is no sinister music or threatening glances that warn us of the impending depravity. And books aren't rated, so we can't know that if what's between the covers is closer to PG-13 or R or X. Plus, we can't fast-forward (effectively at least) through the too-gory or disturbing bits and pick up the storyline again very easily.
I love reading mystery and suspense books. I love the way that they give my brain a workout and I enjoy solving the puzzles and putting together the details. But I don't love overly-violent novels where the violence is described in painstaking detail. And I won't read books that deal with child abduction or torture of kids or animals.
On the other hand, I'm also not a huge fan of cozy mysteries. I like gritty and real ... just not too gritty, I guess.
That's why I thought it might be fun to cover some really great, suspenseful novels that are excellently-written here on the blog. I'm looking for a great name for this series, so if you have a suggestion, please let me know. "Suspense for Sensitive Readers" is the temporary name and ties in well with the tagline for my books, "Suspense that turns pages, not stomachs."
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite suspense books--present or past--or any authors that you think do an excellent job of writing compelling, edge-of-your-seat stories. Just as in movies, I think it's what is left out that is often scarier than what's shown.
Can you believe that in just a couple short weeks, Valentine's Day will be here? I'm not sure about you, but this day has changed a lot for me over the years. No more do I daydream about dozens of roses or boxes of chocolates arriving on my doorstep. In fact, my husband and I don't really celebrate it as our anniversary is so close to it--shot myself in the foot with that one!
But I still like Valentine's Day. I mean, okay, sure. It's basically about buying a bunch of over-priced, half-dead flowers and boxes of chemicals, sugar and fat for your significant other ... but wait, where was I going with this?
I like Valentine's Day because it's a day to celebrate who you love. And that doesn't have to be romantic love. Celebrate anyone's love: your kids' your dog's, your mailman's ...
This year I'm celebrating YOU lovely readers, who I appreciate so much. I've created a special Sharing the LOVE Contest. If you missed my January newsletter, here's what you need to know and how to "play."
Sharing the LOVE: Enter to Win an Amazon Gift Card
If you've read Shadow in the Woods, please leave a review. I can't compete with huge publishing houses. That's why reviews mean so much to me.
As my way of saying thanks, I'm going to randomly draw 2 lucky winners who click the link below. The prize? Two, $10 Amazon eGift Cards. All you have to do is click the link at the end of this post.
1) click the link above
2) click "Write A Review"
3) sign in to Amazon if prompted
4) select a star rating
5) write a few short words (or long words, I won't judge)
6) click the 'submit' button
7) tell me that you clicked the link below (otherwise I have no way of knowing you did)
If you've already left a review, be sure to click the link anyway so you'll be entered into the contest. Just to be clear: all you have to do to enter is click the link. You do not have to leave a positive review or even a review at all. I'll draw the winners on 2/14/18!
Do you have a reading ritual? Maybe it's reading in bed every night before going to sleep, curling up on the couch after work to immerse yourself in a few chapters before making supper or facing the laundry, or sitting on the back deck in warm weather, soaking up sunshine and words at the same time.
I'd love to hear about your favorite reading spot, and what other "accessories" you use to enjoy it even more. Whether that's a big, fluffy pillow to lean on, a warm, cozy quilt to snuggle under, or a particular beverage to have in hand, please share in the comments.
I recently read this blog on reading rituals while researching what other readers/writers had to say on the subject. I do not think I'd like to keep spreadsheets and publication lists for my reading ventures, would you? As a side note: I guess there really is a downside to being in publishing ... and here I thought that people who got to read all day had a dream career!
My Reading Rituals
Here's a peek into my reading rituals: I start my day with quiet and time for prayer/reflection. This is done EARLY in the morning, around 5 or 5:30 when I wake up. I usually do read during this time (my Bible and/or another inspirational text). Then, it's on with my busy day.
If it's a work-from-home day, I read for about 15 minutes on the couch while enjoying a cup of coffee as part of my lunch break. Then, if I'm lucky, I try to squeeze in another 10-15 minutes of reading in bed before turning the light off. With a busy little boy in the house, it's not likely I'll get another chance to read, unless I skip hanging out with my husband to do so after our son is in bed. I go to bed early (usually by 9:30!). I wish that I was someone who could get by on less sleep. :)
Please tell me about your reading habits and rituals in the comments.
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