The Gregorovich-Feister Idea Farm and Fresh Market

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“Where DO you wacky writers get those crazy ideas?”

I don’t know if fantasy writers get this question more often than mystery or romance authors, but we get it quite a bit. And I have decided, in the interest of fair play and brotherhood, to share the Secret. Yes, you guessed it – there IS a place we all go to get these nutty ideas: the Gregorovich-Feister Idea Farm and Fresh Market. It’s a coop tucked into the high grass along Interstate 26 between Columbia and Charleston. Take exit 132 and 2/3 (it’s a dirt road, so be sure and slow down on the curve, else you’re liable to go flying!) and drive at exactly 42 miles per hour for exactly 17 minutes. Stop at the 17 minute mark, close your eyes, and whisper, “I just can’t think of what to write,”, and the gate will appear on the left. Drive in quick, since it only stays open about 30 seconds.

Once you’re inside, you can pick up a bushel basket and hit the fields yourself. The urban fantasy trees are over on the west side of the farm, under those dark clouds.  Keep one eye open for the random questing parties in the epic fantasy orchard, and whatever you do, don’t pluck the golden rutabagas in the mythic fields – the demi-gods are terribly sensitive about that.

If you don’t feel like doing your own work, you can go straight to the fresh market and buy the ideas Viktor Gregorovich picked first thing that morning. Viktor’s a darling, and if you can’t find what you want, he’ll waddle out to the fields to find it for you.  (Don’t ask him where Feister is, though – it’s still a sore subject, ever since Hurricane Hugo came through.) They only take golden dollars and dull pennies in payment, so stock up before you get there.

Okay, you’re not buying the story. The truth is that when I answer that question honestly, people never seem quite satisfied with the truth.  The wacky ideas are all in my head, just as they are in yours.  My first novel was born on a trip to the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington State, when my husband started telling me about a news story he’d read about lost trees at the bottom of Lake Superior.  The second novel I began came from my love of Renaissance faires, and the third, Mad Kestrel… well, heck, I was missing the beach and the ocean, and pirates could take me there fastest. I get ideas from flipping through the latest issues of Newsweek, Scientific American and Skeptic. I half-listen to news stories on the radio, and let my mind run wildly with the portion I did catch. I hear songs that send my mind fluttering in another direction than the poor songwriter meant for me.  I read histories and wonder what secret ambitions drove this general or that dictator to do the things he did.  The trick is to think “What if?” instead of assuming what you heard or read is all there is to the story.

Still with me?  Cool.  I’d love to hear some of the interesting or unusual or bizarre places that you’ve found ideas for your own stories.   If you haven’t gone so far as to write your own stories yet, tell me where you found an idea that made you want to write.

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14 comments to The Gregorovich-Feister Idea Farm and Fresh Market

  • Todd Massey

    I was laughing at your story. I hated to see it end.

    Song lyrics and science articles. We’re just like this *holds two fingers up together*.

    Since my longer works are always SF I love most any kind of science article, to spawn thoughts and to populate my future world with extrapolations of ideas and gadgets.

    Soundgarden
    Burden in My Hand

    The first line goes “Follow me into the desert”. I couldn’t get an image out of my head, of the hero heading into a hellish desert, spawned by that line. Started writing a SF story about it that involved nano-tech and asked the big question “where is the human soul”.

    Blue Oyster Cult
    Veteran of the Pyschic Wars

    (The entire song is great) but it starts out “You see me now a veteran, of a thousand psychic wars.” Too powerful not to use. Started writing a SF story about that inspiration also. It involved a device implanted in the brain.

    Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Some song of theirs, I can’t remember right now, prompted a poem about a cliff top grave yard overlooking the sea.

    Sting/Police
    Invisible Sun

    “There has to be an invisible sun”. A piece of poetry came out of that. Essentially a giant space dragon that spends millennia traveling between stars eating them.

    Those are just a few off the top of my head. I am sure there are plenty more pieces that were lyrically inspired.

  • Misty, I *loved* this!
    I’m going to post a link on all my other blogs, as something which I wish had written. It is *grand*!

    But I do have one comment — I don’t think all people have zany ideas. I don’t think all minds are created to be creative in storytelling. I used to think they were, but now … not so much. I now think some people have brains wired to think in numbers and quotas and linear concepts. Others to think in color or musical notes. Others for other ways of cogntation. Not writing or storytelling. In fact, they think we are totally nuts.

    And, Todd,
    I wish wish wish I could say it was music that drove the ideas into my head. That sounds a lot more sane and a lot more interesting than the truth which is … um … I don’t know.

    I got the ideas for the two fantasy series on the way to tea with a certain Miz Kim. When I posed them to her she loved them, which was really cool. Misty was there for part of more fleshing out on Skinwalker, my current WIP.

    I get ideas from TV news, from reading National Geographic, from reading Adventure Mag. From other books, from sights I see while traveling. From people I meet while doing research.

    It isn’t the ideas that are hard to find, it is the time and energy to make them into books.
    Faith

  • Chris Branch

    Exit 132… 42 miles… Gregorovich… where the heck did you get this idea? 😉

  • Loved the post — meant to comment earlier but writing and kids and everything else intervened. I’m a “What if?” writer, too. There’s no trick to it, really. It’s just the way my mind works.

    A story from when I was first working out the plotting and worldbuilding for my very first book: I had just finished my Ph.D., and was actually out in California to hand in and defend my doctoral dissertation. While I was there, I stayed with my closest friend from my history program and told him about my book idea and how I was considering giving up on academia to pursue a career as a fantasy author. I was still struggling with the decision in a big way. So he and I went for a long walk through the campus of our grad school and I told him all about the world I was creating and the magic system, which was rooted in a psychic bond mages form with birds of prey. And just as I was telling him about this, I looked up into the tree we were walking past. And there were three baby Great-horned Owls looking down on us. A Sign? A gift from the writing gods? Call it what you will. But I’ll never forget it.

  • mikaela

    This might sound simple, but I get ideas from everywhere. Songs, books, tv. Once I got an idea from my Enviromental Science book. I haven’t written it yet, though. Maybe it is time, when I am done with my current WIP….

  • You know, I think I have been there before. Isn’t there a quaint little Greek place around the corner? They have some awsome toobuli. 😉

  • Mark, that’s it!! If you’re there on alternate Thursdays, it’s a Turkish place. With dolmades you’ll swear the gods created. But really, it’s the elves in the kitchen… *laughs*

  • David, I’d like to hear more about your decision to turn away from academia. I take it you didn’t already have something published at that point?

    I’m alwasy fascinated by how writers got the the point they’re at now.

    And those of you who are working full-time, workaday jobs, how do you balance the two? For instance, do you just do the job to get by, or do you find yourself trying to achieve promotions and such at work? Or, is all your extra energy expended on making sure you excel at the writing?

  • I’d had doubts about academica for some time, Christina. A few years. But I’d started the graduate program in history and invested much time and energy into getting my degree, so I saw it through to the end and finished my dissertation.

    I’d wanted to be a writer for years, since high school, and had only gotten away from it because it didn’t seem to be a practical career path. (Had that right! :) ) Anyway, I finished my dissertation in May 1993, and really couldn’t start to apply for academic jobs until September or October. So my wife said, basically, “Since the day I met you you’ve been talking about writing a book. You have a few months now. Why don’t you try writing and see if you like it?”

    So I began work on what would become my first book (my first published piece of fiction of any length), Children of Amarid. And that fall I applied for several academic positions. Long story short: I was offered a job teaching U.S. Environmental History at Colorado State on a Thursday in mid-March. The next day I got a call from an editor at Tor Books telling me that he was interested in buying my book. So I took the weekend to decide. Actually it was no decision at all. The Colorado job was my history dream job if ever there was one. And the thought of taking it made me sick to my stomach. Writing had been my dream for years and finally I had the opportunity to do it professionally. I turned down the job offer, signed a contract with Tor a couple of months later, and never looked back.

  • <>

    Thanks for responding!

    How did you get hooked up so quickly with an editor?

    Also, I work in academia now (as a data analyst for Institutional Effectiveness), but I formerly taught Enlish Composition. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to get out for years (though I do find that I love statistical analysis, computer programming, and creating databases). I did take a year off to freelance write for the role-palying game industry, who are notoriously slow to pay and cheap, so that didn’t work out well for me. Now, I’m sitting on a contemporary romance novel and not having any luck securing an agent. Of course, I don’t think I’d make enough money at it if the book did sell to write full-time.

    I have a hard time wondering if I should put more effort into my job or into my writing. I’m a data geek, and I generally like my job (just not the BS that takes place in educational institutes) . And, I haven’t been given any advancement opportunities, and that irritates me to no end. But I quit striving there to concentrate on writing, hoping it would ease my mind from that. Only, it is a struggle of a different kind to actually get ficiton published (I have 30+ professional gaming books to my name).

    Anyway, I would love to hear how Faith and Misty deal with those kind of issues with the workaday world. I know Faith gets tired of her hospital job.

  • Christina,
    More than tired. The hours are brutal. Hospitals (and parenthood) are the only workplace and job descriptions that should read, “Must be prepared to work every holiday and weekend and be vomited upon regularly.”

    I am sooo tired of it and ready for something new. Yet, the benefits are wonderful, and a regular paycheck is really nice. How do I quit that for the uncertainity of writing? I *could* quite financially, as the writign is now at a level I am happy with. But the what ifs that drive me to write, also keep me with a day job.

    My husband is self employed. No benefits from him. And frankly, after a person reaches 40, it is hard to pay for health insurance. I feel like I am at a crossroads.

    So I now am trying to create a job in the teaching world, bringing writers into failing schools. It would still be a job, but one with much better hours. And it seems to be moving forward. I’ll keep you all informed on the process and progress.
    Faith

  • Christina, my job is a paycheck, honestly. I love working with the students and the books, and I have the most amazing principal to work for, so it’s a relatively pleasant place to be. I put forth my best effort every minute I’m at school, so it’s not as if I’m just lazing around. My principal badgers me on a fairly regular basis about going back to school to earn my Masters in Library Science and my certification. It makes me feel good, of course, to know she values me so highly, but I know how much time and work and money would have to go toward a graduate degree, and subsequently how the writing would suffer.

    Faith mentioned the insurance issue, and that’s a biggie for me, because I am a) over 40 and b) mother of a teen boy. Luckily my husband’s work insurance is very, very good. If we get to the point where HE can stop working, though, I’ll have to give that some serious thought.

  • I am vaguely suspecious that anyone would notice the all so late comment, but I am adding some of my thoughts here as well.

    For me it’s artwork that sparks ideas. Mythology, song lyrics, random stupid lines that I spurr at the moment, while talking to my friends and anime. So that sums it up with me. I am a slut when it comes to ideas.

  • Michele Conti

    I get ideas for writing when I’m walking. Doesn’t matter where. Just walking.

    “(Insert Idea) Hey, that’d be fantastic to write about.”

    But…then I get to my destination and it goes away. As usually, I’m walking to work, or home from work. To work means there’s work to be done, and home means there’s sleep, or cleaning, or trimming five cats nails or whatever… Too much to do, not enough time, and the idea goes POOF.