A question that writers get asked a lot is “Where do you get your ideas?” and sometimes the answers can astound you with how deeply the rabbit-hole goes, and other times… not so much. Because sometimes the answer is, “I don’t know.”
For me, my current release Beer and Groping in Las Vegas barely qualifies as paranormal–it’s an erotic geek romance with paranormal elements by way of a matchmaking djinn and a magic slot machine in Vegas. But the paranormal only facilitates the romance between two quite human characters.
So did I set about to write a novelette featuring a match-making djinn? Nope. Not even close. Actually the whole project was a whim to take my mind off of my larger project at the time–I had just sent out my first round of agent queries for my full length time travel romance, Must Love Breeches, and I wanted to have some fun and also prevent myself from obsessing over the query process. I had an idea for a steampunk romance kicking around, but before I launched into drafting another full length novel, I think my mind recognized that it needed a break, and it occurred to me at the time, that trying my hand at a shorter length work could be the answer.
And still the djinn wasn’t even an itch for my plotty fingers. Actually the genesis for the story came from the title. I work in a bookstore and was trying to think of possible titles and was shelving some Hunter S. Thompson, and I was like hmm, what could be a twist off of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and first I was like Beer and Loathing, but I write lighthearted romances, and then ‘groping’ popped into my head. In the next instant I had the hero, as I thought he should be a microbrewer, and that the heroine would be an overworked software programmer. Once I had that, things started falling into place, including the description for him of being a geek trapped in a good ole boy’s body. I had that tagline for him before I even started writing the story. It was the first time I came up with a title first.
The story needed a magical element though, as I wanted to have fun with the one-night hookup and have the paranormal element facilitate it. Plus, this would make the scenario more “plausible” in order for it to happen all in one night. It could’ve been anything, but for some reason that I don’t even remember the thought of using a djinn popped into my head and it clicked. Only later, did I realize that as a writer I must like the make-a-wish theme, since that’s used in my time travel too.
All this is to say, that the subconscious mind sometimes throws things into our mix as we’re writing, and only later do we know why or see larger patterns. It definitely makes it fun. So here’s a little taste of the geeky, the fun, and the match-making djinn (the opening scene):
Mirjam rubbed the tiredness from her eyes, but the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland still occupied the Rivenbark Hotel & Casino elevator with her. She blinked and squinted. Yep. And life-size. Complete with hookah.
Plastic squeaked against glass as the caterpillar shifted to make more room. It made eye contact.
“Er, nice costume,” Mirjam ventured.
“Thanks,” came the muffled reply.
The elevator swooped to a stop on the mezzanine level. A pirate and a Ghostbuster stepped on and pushed the lobby button. Mirjam angled back to avoid being knocked over by the guy’s Proton Pack.
“Convention?” Mirjam asked the caterpillar and it rewarded her with a nod.
Mirjam groaned inwardly. She’d attended her share, but now, they reminded her too much of The Turd, otherwise known as Brian. Great. She wanted to go home but apparently, that was asking too much—a blizzard in Ann Arbor nixed her flight this morning. Next chance to get out—tomorrow.
The elevator dinged at the lobby, and she headed to the hotel bar. Maybe she could salvage the day by squeezing in some work.
“What can I get you?” The bartender sported a headband with gold, sparkly antennae in her pink, cropped hair.
Mirjam pulled out her laptop. “Sprite, please.” Only a few others populated the bar, too early for drinking. Though this was Vegas. Pink Hair Lady plopped down Mirjam’s drink, the stir stick topped by a wiggling green rubber alien.
“So, which convention is this?” Mirjam motioned to a couple of Spartans walking by, though they probably shouldn’t have chosen that look.
“It’s ConVegas—sci-fi, fantasy, pop culture, that kind of thing. Doesn’t start until tomorrow, but we always get some folks early. What brings you here?”
“AppExpo that ended last night.” Mirjam connected to the hotel’s free WiFi. Time to figure out what caused her new app to choke while compiling.
Pink Hair Lady cocked her hip, fist resting on the bone. “Lemme guess. You’re always working, aren’t you?” She slid a glass bowl of pistachios over. “This is Vegas. You should be out having fun.”
Fun. Pfft. No time for that. “My flight got canceled and the timing blows. Too much to do. I didn’t want to come, but my partner thought it might be good for business.”
Mirjam shrugged and pulled up and scanned her code, hoping her fixed focus on the laptop would clue Chatty One to leave her alone.
“I’m Jenn, by the way.”
Mirjam peeked up and pasted on a smile. “Nice to meet you.” She tracked back to the code.
The bartender left to help another customer but returned her inquisitive butt a few minutes later. “So, Vegas at your feet and your nose is to the grindstone. This is truly what you wish to do with your unexpected free night?”
Mirjam gritted her teeth. If Jenn would stop pestering her, she might be able to figure out the rendering bug. “No. If I had my wish, I’d spend it having hot sex with the man of my dreams, but since that’s not going to happen…” she snapped.
The bartender’s eyes flashed for a second. Or had they literally flashed?
Mirjam shook her head. She really was tired. “Sorry. Don’t mind me.”
“No worries, I’ll leave you to your work.” Jenn smiled and strode to the other end of the bar.
No matter how long Mirjam stared at the code, the solution eluded her. Man, she could use a nap. She motioned to Jenn and settled her tab.
“Have fun in Vegas. Here,” Jenn fished in her back pocket, “try the slot machine on the corner there. On me.” She slid a dollar across the counter. “I hear one gets lucky with it.”
Mirjam tried to shove the bill back, but Jenn kept her hand in place, pinning the bill to the counter with a bright pink fingernail. “I insist.”
Oh, what would it hurt? “Okay, thanks. I will.”
She packed away her laptop and swung the bag over her shoulder. At the machine, she fed in the dollar and received three credits. Yank. Nothing. Yank. Nothing. Yank. Ding, ding, ding! Mirjam jumped back, a rotating red light atop the machine joining the cacophony.
What in the—
Mirjam peered into the output tray and scooped out a heavy-stock envelope with a pink wax seal, not the expected handful of chips one hopes for in Las Vegas. She flipped it over. Embossed on the front, her name—Mirjam Linna.
As a reader, do you find yourself disappointed when you find out that there’s not a thought-provoking reason behind a writer’s idea? Or do you not care as long as it works? For me, this story was more about two kinda-geeky characters finding love than it was about the paranormal djinn.
About Beer and Groping in Las Vegas
Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?
Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.
Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.
Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.
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About Angela Quarles
Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.
She’s an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since.
She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.
Find Angela here: website | blog | twitter | facebook
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This sounds ilke a fun read! I really don’t care how authors come up with ideas, I just often sit in awe of their creativity and admire it from afar. Have you ever read a Gini Kock book?
I have not, but I’m now looking it up on GoodReads!! Thanks for commenting!
I always find it interesting to see where authors get their ideas, and often find it’s an evolutionary process where random ideas somehow mysteriously coalesce into one Big Idea. I like the idea of having a small magical element that propels the humans into their adventure–it’s a more subtle form of paranormal and a fun change from the heavy-heavy paranormal worlds.
Yeah, I like when little nuggets start finding each other and melding into larger ideas. That ‘oh, wow, and then this could happen…’ is one of my favorite moments in brainstorming 🙂
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Sometimes I meet authors whose inspiration stories are out of this world fabulous and I worry mine aren’t fascinating enough. “It just popped into my head” doesn’t seem glitzy enough. 😛 This looks like a super fun book and I’ve been wanting to check it out! Thanks for sharing, Angela!
I know, right? I wasn’t sure if that’d be disappointing or not. Been interesting to see that readers (so far) don’t seem to care. Or maybe they’re being polite 🙂
While I find it interesting where writers get their ideas, I don’t really care so long as the story works for me. I know my inspiration can be from a dream, or a small nugget – and probably not terribly interesting to anyone else.
Was interested, however, to hear about how “Beer and Groping” had it’s beginnings – especially because I found it a ton of fun, and really enjoyed the read. Though maybe it’s the paranormal girl in me that wondered: “so what else has that djinn been up to?” 🙂
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Who knows what the djinn might do from here. I’m hoping he’ll tap me on the shoulder some day soon and say, ‘so, about me’ and give me a hint on what he’s doing 🙂
Great questions. I usually get a kernel of inspiration and then all the hard work begins with what to do with it. I suspect some of my “how I thought of this” stories have been revised over time to be more interesting too 🙂
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Beer and Groping and it is really cute! Thanks for sharing Angela.
Thanks Amber! LOL, and yep, even the process story can evolve–we _are_ storytellers 😉
Angela, I *loved* this excerpt. Funny and charming. I’m looking forward to reading the book.
I really liked your point about realizing the make-a-wish theme is one of your core elements as a writer. This repeatedly surprises me when I’m writing a story. I’ll go back during revisions and realize the book is dealing with the same core issue of “finding yourself” that most of my books seem to hinge on. I’ve heard it said that writers have one “core story” at the heart of most of their work–each book is a new way of dealing with that one thing that makes us tick or gets under our skin the most.
Great post. 🙂
Finding yourself seems to be another of mine too (it’s in this story also. The make-a-wish seems to be more of a core plot catalyst, and ‘finding your true self/finding your home’ seems to be what my characters strive for in mine. It was only after multiple revisions in Must Love Breeches that I realized ‘home’ was the major theme. But the heroine in it and Beer, have both lost themselves. The heroes in Breeches and Must Love Chainmail have too. The more I write, the more I learn about myself, that’s for sure…
It is a good book! And yes to the subconscious. My fingers on the keyboard tell the story letter by letter and I always learn something new.and yeah the “core story” all my stories have the same idea. Odd eh?
Yeah, it is strange how that works out–I find the more I write the more I learn about myself 🙂
Great excerpt Angela. I love how you came up with the title first and that it’s a play on H.S.T’s Fear/Loathing title. I, too, rarely have a title before I’ve written the story. Usually comes to me during or after.
Thanks Celia, yeah, it was kinda weird having it come first and supply the plot, etc.
Great post, Angela! I usually come up with the hero and heroine first. That’s not the case, however, with my current WIP. I came up with the title first (Demon Hunting with a Dixie Deb), and things grew from there. Like you, I find it hard to pinpoint WHERE my ideas come from sometimes.