No one has ask me yet "Where do you get your story ideas?" But I'm sure someone at a book signing will ask. Here's the scoop; they come from everywhere and at anytime, followed with the big question, what if?
Truth or Consequences, the novel, is a perfect example of anytime and everywhere. On the return leg of a driving vacation to California from Oklahoma, we were in eastern Arizona. We stopped for lunch at a truck stop. First mistake. Being road weary, we chose the buffet. Second mistake. The fare was gloopy and overbearing with sodium and grease. Even the salad fixings were lawn clipping like leftovers. We made due, semi-dispatched our hunger and headed to the cashier. $32.00 later, still stunned by the quality and the price, we headed back onto I-40 and put the hammer down.
Several hours later, hunger showed up. Fine. Billboards bragged about a "restaurant" some 50 or so miles ahead of us. We stopped at the "restaurant", it suckered us in. It was attached to the end of an extremely busy - truck stop. Mistake number three. We ordered off the menu, hoping to diminish the buffet effect from earlier in the day. No luck. No need to berate the three fingered cook with the stainless steel hairnet, but the food, service and price, I guess you could say was becoming common place.
We laughed at our own stupidity. Twice in one day? You get what you deserve. Stick with the known rather than the unknown when you are bleary eyed and hungry. A Big Mac and fries, are a delicacy at times. Before long we were complaining about the two turd like meals in one day.
Gayle, my wife said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you went to a restaurant and they already knew what you wanted and it was great food?”
I’ll bite. “Isn’t that what they call take out?” Nope.
“No, more like they’re psychic and they know what you like and it‘s on the table when you get there.”
“A psychic café?”
With hundreds more miles, and interesting radio stations, I started playing “What if?”. I could see a young girl who inherits a café from an Aunt she never met. At the same time she wanted to give her life a makeover. Do something different. Move to another city or state and start fresh. Then I imagined the café, the setting, décor and location. Okay fine, how is she suddenly psychic as well? Ah ha, she is only psychic when she is inside the café! Then a love interest. How about a cop on the beat that stops for coffee everyday? She’s bowled over with the new found psychic ability to know what the customer wants as soon as they enter. Interesting. Could make a nice short story. One day her cop customer complains about an unsolved murder. She blurts out the name of the suspect and other details of the crime. Cool. Mental candy for the next 800 miles.
I toyed with the story idea until the drive home was finished. We learned our lesson with road food and the remainder of the trip went well. We hit on a good Chinese restaurant in Grants, NM. A Denny’s in Santa Rosa, NM. A huge palace of a Chinese buffet in Oklahoma City. The rest was burgers and fries. No more truck stop buffets!
In the last week of October 2009, I received, via email, an open invitation to the annual NANOWRIMO.ORG (write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days). I’ve read about these folks before, but write a novel in 30 days? One good rule when you sign up for this contest is that you cannot do any editing or proofreading, just flat out write! Why not? The Psychic Café (was changed to a working title of the Psychic Bistro) started gaining ground. More details came to mind, but nothing in stone, no notes, just ideas flitting around. November 1st I signed up for the contest and started writing. Daily word counts are the key and you can track them on the NANOWRIMO website. 200 words, 1500 words, 3400 words, 50 words. At first I was all over the word count map. I got into the groove. 54,000 words and I had 4 days left of November! I laughed, I cried, I said this is insane, you can’t write a novel in 30 days. But I did.
The creative spark evolved. She didn’t inherit a café, it’s been done. Something triggered an upheaval in her life. A horrible traffic accident that ended her gymnastics career. Mundane, but workable. How about amnesia? Okay. What if she was married--to her coach--before she was 18? Weird, but okay. Flight or fight? Sure, let’s go with flight! Conflict? The coach wants her settlement money from the accident. It took on a life of its own, far from the simple psychic bistro.
November 2010, I’ll sign up again for the contest. The sequel to Truth or Consequences, “Hell is El Paso…”, is boiling and bubbling… simmering mind candy. 50,000 words in 30 days! Hot damn here I go again.
FYI - a busy truck stop is a sign that it has easy ingress and egress to the highway, fuel islands, big rig related services 24 / 7, clean showers, cute cashiers, good coffee and cheap thermos refills of coffee, plus plenty of room to park… rarely is the buffet at the top of a trucker’s list. Thanks Carl & Steven for the info!