Trivia Wednesday…Where Story Ideas Come From

So I had a bizarre encounter with my 91-year-old mom on Monday night. Well, early Tuesday morning. She’d taken the wrong mix of medications and was visiting other realms, so to speak. So I was trying to ask her questions and bring her back to the world the rest of us inhabit when she said, “You’re trying to make me think I’m crazy so you can write a book about it.”

Hm. Well, no. But….oh, wait, “Gaslight” has already been done. Many times, in many formats.

That’s not to say that seeds of reality don’t bounce around in authors’ heads and get reconfigured into elements of story.

So, here are 10 real-life things that have turned into major or minor story elements for me, in no order. See how many you already knew.

  1. The entire SENTINELS OF NEW ORLEANS series, particularly ROYAL STREET, was based on my own memories of being a New Orleanian moving back to the city from my evacuation spot very shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit.
  2. DJ’s evacuation spot for Katrina was the small Alabama cotton mill town of Winfield, Alabama, which is where I was born and spent my first 18 years.
  3. Winfield also served, in part, as a model for Penton, Alabama, in the PENTON LEGACY series. The real community of Penton is not a mill town (in fact, it has one restaurant and a motor speedway and a church), but that area of east Alabama was very invested in textiles and was financially devastated when the textile industry moved overseas. So Penton is a mashup of Winfield, the Chambers County seat of LaFayette  (accent on FAY), and Penton.
  4. Penton and nearby LaFayette are about 25 miles from where I live now. I decided on the location by looking at a map of the state and looking for the most isolated spot I could find. And there it was.
  5. Most of the characters in LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP are named after my and my friends’ pets. My terrier Shane became the hero, Shane Burke, and my rottie/chow/golden mix Tanker played himself.
  6. I was writing DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD about the time I discovered mixed-media art and learned how to make my own art journals, which is how hero Brody became a reclusive artist….who made his own journals.
  7. A couple of years ago, a shipwreck of a possible pirate schooner off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, became (duh) the inspiration for PIRATESHIP DOWN. Because I figure if one of Jean Lafitte’s lost ships was found, he’d want a piece of that, oui?
  8. The BLACK DIAMOND drug of the same name was inspired by the so-called “zombie drug” called Flakka that has been such a problem in south Florida and was all over the news a year or so ago. Superhuman strength, sense of invincibility, batshit crazy. Check, check, check.
  9. The standalone short, CHENOIRE, was originally written for this blog and was set in the Sentinels of New Orleans world. The lead character in the original story was merman Rene Delachaise.
  10. I don’t write more short fiction because my editor for the first four Sentinels books told me I had no talent for it and “some people aren’t meant to write short stories.” That was the response to the story “JACKSON SQUARE.” Which I might still publish just as a nice little F-U.

Learn anything new?

Sentinels of New Orleans: Past, Present, Future

So….Sentinels of New Orleans fans. Here’s what’s up with DJ, Jean Lafitte, Alex and the gang….

It took six months and an ultimatum, but I have finally received word that my publisher does not want to publish the final book in the series. What does that mean for you as readers and for me as an author?

First, don’t worry—there WILL be at least one more book in the series. It will be the last in the current story arc, but now that I control the series, the door is open to, say, also making the book a spinoff start of a new SENTINEL WARS series so that new readers can come in without having read the previous books. Or, more likely, the book will simply end the current series and leave open the possibility of a new series set in the vast Sentinels multiverse. (I suspect Jean Lafitte still has some life left in him!)

Another plus: timing. Instead of two (or three) years between books, I can publish the new book, tentatively titled FRENCHMAN STREET, as early as November. I’m shooting for early next spring for a release date rather than put it out right before the holidays.

Negatives? Well, the cover won’t match the rest of the series, since the model who portrayed DJ on all the covers came from a photo shoot to which I will not have access. I have confidence that a good cover designer and I can find a solution, however.

Another big question mark is format. If you’ve followed the series in print, you know that it has been a royal mess, so to speak. The publisher released ROYAL STREET only in trade paperback. RIVER ROAD and ELYSIAN FIELDS came out both in hardcover and trade paperback. PIRATE’S ALLEY and BELLE CHASSE came out only in hardcover. For those of us (i.e., everyone) who like to have our series in a matching set, that has been a nightmare over which I had no control. I still have no control over how the first five books came out, but am pretty sure that FRENCHMAN will come out in trade paperback rather than hardcover because of the cost. I am still exploring my options on that, however. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments. It might be that I can have a limited number of hardcover copies available signed from my website.

Thoughts? Preferences? Ideas? My prolonged illness this winter has slowed everything down, and ILLUMINATION is at the top of my priority list. But Sentinels will not be far behind.

Sound off here! I’m really interested in hearing where you’d like to see Sentinels to go next, or if it’s time to put it to bed.