Rousing of ideas

August 9, 2018

I wrote about how ties and carpets have inspired ideas before, but here’s another thing that spurred an idea. You may actually recognize him from the cover of Mystery of the Stardust Monk.


This little monk statue was in the courtyard at the Anchor in Lincoln City, Oregon. Look at him closely and you’ll notice that he’s been cleaved in two it looks like. I always wondered how the split came about and what was holding him together. I think that’s why he sat in the back of my imagination. Read the rest of this entry »


Ideas in weird places

August 2, 2018

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas.

While I can’t speak for other writers, I know that generally something (anything) sparks a character to start speaking to me. The ones that stick are typically very loud and won’t leave me alone. They tell me their story.

But that’s how the stories get started. Sometimes the more important plot elements of the story come from different places. I never know where I will get inspired.

Here are some examples and a little bit about what they roused: Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Making Hay – Raking

May 7, 2015
Me (in the red hat) and a friend sitting in the hay. I told you in the last blog that I really did that. DId you believe me? Look at all the rows of hay.

Me (in the red hat) and a friend sitting in the hay. I told you in the last blog that I really did that. Did you believe me?
Look at all the rows of hay.

A couple of days after cutting the hay into neat rows comes the process of raking the hay. This basically means that you turn the hay over so that it can dry on the underside.

For this process, you start by going around the whole field to get those outer edge rows. Then you start on the nearest section and, dividing the number of rows the swather cut into two, begin in the middle row and work your way out. Once you’ve done one section, you move over to the next. The process continues all the way across the field, then move onto another field. To top it all off, you have to start early in the morning, usually before sunrise just as the light is starting to come into the sky, and you can only work until 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. before you start losing too many leaves. You need the morning dew on the hay to keep it flexible while you rake because the more leaves on the alfalfa the better the quality. Once it gets too hot and the morning dew has burned off, you’re done for the day. If you’re lucky, you won’t have afternoon rain. Rain is horrible for the downed hay because it causes the hay to mold. Too much rain, and you have to rake it again. Rake it again and you lose more leaves. Not good.

I can’t believe I missed Saturday morning cartoons for this!

I do wish I’d taken this job a bit more seriously, hustled a bit more than I did. Not only was my time short for raking, but I also ditched the job for about an hour each morning to go participate on the swimming team. I do have fond memories of early breakfast with my dad at Sturgeons and driving the tractor through town.

On to why it compares to writing…

As I mentioned in my Twitter reply, I said that raking was like the actual process of writing and turning the ideas over. Once I have my Hero’s Journey outline I mentioned in my last post, I begin to write. I’m taking the ideas I had and I’m turning them over. This is why I don’t build anything too structured. I need some room to work and to turn. I never know what’s lying beneath the initial idea. I let my characters run and hope they surprise me. I let myself get off course. As long as it feels right, I keep going. If it doesn’t I go back to when it did last feel right and start again.

When you’re raking, you start to see the moisture beneath the hay from the dew and the cut alfalfa as gravity pulls it down. It’s always so green. It looks just slightly different than the cut alfalfa that’s been growing in the sun for two days. I remember thinking back then about how a little bit of protection can help renew life.

Let’s just hope we don’t have an afternoon rain. It’s dreadful to watch the sky turn gray and the thunder roll in. In writers, it’s called depression. We all know the stories of talented writers who kill themselves all because they can’t cope in the world. Let me say that if you are depressed and you know it, get help. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. And your brain is awash in chemicals that you can’t fight. Not if you are depressed. Now everyone has mood swings, everyone gets down every now and then. The weather, an inciting incident, a snappy word, stubbing your toe, etc., each can put you in a bad mood where you then start to feel down. Don’t let the rain day stay because it will mold your ideas if you do. You won’t write; you’ll just think about it. You’ll start a cycle you can’t break out of. I have learned that one thing that picks me up is to go for a walk. Not just any walk, but one where I let hold my head high and I walk just a little bit faster than normal. It’s usually not long then before my characters start talking to me — they like it when I’m feeling confident, especially Loki.

This series will continue on Monday, so get back to writing. The time while you’re waiting for the hay to dry (again) after it rains is a waste; in short, don’t let the rain come. Your time is already too short and you don’t have long to work. Keep the sun shining and making hay.

The Art of Making Hay — Irrigation

May 5, 2015

Last week, Brian Rathbone made a comment on Twitter that editing was like baling hay. The ranch girl in me couldn’t resist. I could see a certain truth in it. I responded with writing was like raking hay because you were turning over ideas.

As I was thinking about this the next day, I wondered if I could equate the writing process to ranching. After all, most people don’t think writing is “real work.” Let me tell you, the artistic process is work. Creating something from nothing does take effort. Even those of us who enjoy it so much do still have to apply ourselves. As with any work, you have to “put your butt in the chair” and get it done.

Before I get too far off-topic, and also because this kind of bleed into today’s point, let’s talk about irrigation.

Irrigation is watering the fields. When I was growing up, we flood irrigated. That meant the water came to the ranch by canals and by opening or closing a series of gates we could divert the water down the ditches to whichever field we needed it to go to. We’d open the head gates at the top of the field to let the water spill out over the land. Before the water reached all the way to the end of the field, you ran up to the head gate on the next section of land to water, opened the gates, then closed the gates on the first piece. It you had “nailed it,” the water reached to the bottom part of the land without leaving too much water, running off somewhere you didn’t want water (as possible in the picture below), or without missing plants there. It didn’t take long to get use to the flow of the water and how long it would take for each section of the field to be irrigated.

Me, out irrigating (the driveway) I've got my boot and my shovel. Ready to work! Not sure if the water was actual irrigation run-off or from watering the trees.

Me, out irrigating (the driveway)
I’ve got my boot and my shovel. Ready to work!
Not sure if the water was actual irrigation run-off or from watering the trees.

How does this relate to writing? Irrigation is like the writer’s life. You have to enrich yourself with the experiences life gives you. Since feelings are universal, you need to allow them to wash over you and seep in, saturating you so you can recall them when you need to. I’ve often said that everything you experience in life is fodder for your writing. People, experiences, emotions, etc., all become a basis for you to gather ideas within.

I use to think this wasn’t true. Of course, that’s why I’m a better writer now than I was then. I used to believe that since you were making it up all along, you didn’t need to be around other people. The introvert in me really loved that excuse. Fortunately, I was still having to participate in life whether I liked it or not. Ah, to be young and stupid. Now I know that when I can look back on an experience and relate it to the scene I’m making up, I delve into the emotions of that memory and apply it to the scene. It becomes richer. I can mash feelings together. I did this a lot when I was building the relationship between Steigan and Lord Ithanes of Dubinshire in Manifest the Magic and To Birth a Destiny. Steigan is so distrustful of Ithanes at first, but he’s also intrigued. As their friendship grows, Steigan always had a wary sense that Ithanes is up to something, but he’s started to trust the Lord of Dubinshire. I’ve felt the way Steigan feels in Manifest the Magic where he was intrigued and scared of Ithanes, but it was the wariness as we went into To Birth a Destiny that I needed to merge emotions because I’ve never quite felt that way. I have had people break my trust, so I knew that pain and I felt Steigan anticipating it. If I’d never built a friendship though, would I have been prepared to build the friendship between my characters?

This is not an excuse for an artist to be flighty though. Don’t get all emotional and claim that it’s your right because you’re an artist. Keep it inside for when you need it. Don’t waste it. I’ve often been called cold and insensitive during my life. I’ve been told I’m like Spock. I had the contrast come very sharply to me when I was writing an information sheet for Art & Soul of Magic Valley and thinking about how my co-workers would take it if they read it. Would they see that level of emotion I had within myself? Would they think I was making it all up as I went along?

So, irrigation is your life. Let it flow over you. The land does not spit the water back out, but rather it soaks it all up. Take your life in. Don’t judge it, don’t get wrapped up in the drama other people try to give you, just absorb. You’ll need it all to grow. And we all know that you reap what you sow.

Leaving you

November 4, 2014
Key  4×4 acrylic on canvas  Dawn Blair ©2014

4×4 acrylic on canvas
Dawn Blair ©2014

Currently on eBay

At one of the panels I did at Pac-Con Spokane, I had a gentleman ask the panel if we ever had a story come to us, were really enthusiastic about it, then it left us. This particular person said it happened to him and about a week later he saw a show that followed his story to the letter.

At the time, I answered that I had stories come and leave me just like that. I even said something to the effect that I believe sometimes stories are taken away from us if we don’t get to work on them. I really do believe that. In some ways, I feel that Harry Potter should have been my idea, even though I’m not British and I wouldn’t have had any clue about a boarding school.

Unfortunately, at the time of the panel, I couldn’t think of any stories that came and left. Then, I was working on rearranging a few things in my office and looking for a story I wanted to get back to work on when I came across two old files. One was called “Vapors” and the other “Overboard.” These were two stories that I was all raring to go on and that came to a sudden halt. Heck, I can still remember when Vapors came to me — I was 15 at the time. I really felt like it was going to launch me to stardom.

So why can’t I work on it?

I just don’t feel that passionate about it right now. That’s not to say that I won’t ever. In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this post, I am remembering the storyline even though I never opened the file; it wasn’t what I was looking for so I had moved on. I do also remember seeing The Mummy – they actually use “my idea” in it very loosely. I’ve seen another movie that made use of “my idea.”

Some may say, well, if he just started working on his idea and it got “taken away and given to someone else,” why is he seeing the show a week later? Timey-whimey, is my reply.

There is nothing new under the sun. Even so-called “original ideas” are really just spins on other ideas.

So how do you get ideas to stop from leaving you? I don’t think there is a way to force the Muse to stay on your shoulder and tell you a story. Sometimes, you have to just put your bottom in the chair and work on the story without the Muse. Sometimes all you need to do is show up and the Muse “feels guilty” and joins you. Sometimes you just have to have faith in your story. Sometimes, it might be time to let the story “winter” for a bit and when your life enters another season it might come back to you or you might find something better. You just never know. It’s okay to let the story slip away.

The story you let get away might be the treasure for someone else. Don’t worry; your time will come around too.

Seeing Beyond

December 13, 2013
Cosmin Eye  4″x 2″ acrylic on canvas Dawn Blair ©2013 Sold Other works available at

Cosmic Eye
4″x 2″ acrylic on canvas
Dawn Blair ©2013
Other works available at

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.” — Bruce Lee

What are you seeing in your life today? Do you need a new way to look at things, a new perspective? Climbing up to the next level is rarely easy or fun, but if you don’t push your own limits, neither will anyone else. Like happiness, pushing your skills is something only you can do. 

Do you want to know just how high you can fly? Do you want to know how good you can be? Or are you done, never daring to push on? 

I can understand being tired, wanting to throw in the towel. But in the end, I know I can never stop being a creative person. It’s in my blood. I will always have to writing, or painting, or doodling, or whatever calls to my soul at any given moment even if I never share it with the world. I’m just thankful I live in a day and age where I can share my thoughts and ideas with you without the gatekeepers that use to be in place. So, when I really think about it, I hope I keep doing what I love until it’s my time to pass from this world into the next. May I never rest too long on a plateau. Let me keep learning and growing until my last heartbeat. With my last breath, may I whisper, “Thank you” to the world that supported me throughout. Even then, I hope my stories and artwork will live to inspire generations to come. 

If I could see into the years beyond, that is what I would wish for.


Capturing ideas when they come

March 16, 2012

I wanted to share with you an idea that I got when I was listening to the Making Comics podcast. I’ve linked to the actual podcast in the link.

One of the guests on the podcast said that he got his best ideas in the shower so he uses a piece of plexi-glass and a China marker to scribble down ideas when he’s in the shower. I have to say that my interest was wrapped when the guest said he got his best ideas in the shower. The host and the other guest didn’t quiet “get it” but I did. He even said he had issues trying to remember these ideas until he could get to a point where he could write them down. Even calling for his wife to come write down the idea hadn’t seemed like a working solution. Hmm, I think I get that too. Finally he found this solution and it worked for him.

I wasted no time in going down to Home Depot to find some plexi-glass and a China marker. I actually found something better — it’s stronger and lighter than plexi-glass though more expensive. Works just the same though. The China marker was harder to find. I finally found some at Office Mas along with some clips with suction cups on them. Now I knew how I was going to hang my “glass.”

Now, I didn’t want the China marker to get all soggy, so I used some of the plastic film to wrap around the marker. I used masking tape to hold it — I’m still not sure how long this will work, but so far so good — and some nylon rope to hang it from the clip. I’ve just looped it over so I can release it when I’m writing further on down the board.

Here’s a picture of the board — sorry it’s not the best. I basically wanted an image of the board, not necessarily what I currently had on it. <>

So far, I can’t say I’ve captured any great ideas, but I’ve only had this setup a short time and right now I’m conscious of its newness so the ideas haven’t been flowing. I’m sure in the long run this will be a very good idea. I can write down ideas whether they be for marketing or stories, draw out scenes I think of, or comic panels, or whatever.

The other place I get a lot of ideas is in my car while I’m driving. So far, the best thing has been Evernote on my tablet because I can open a note fairly easily and start recording my idea with the voice record feature. Best of all, it’s shared between my computers so I have access to it the next time I sit down to work without any hassle of transferring the data.

When and where do you get your best ideas? Do you have a way to capture them? Share what you’ve done or if you’re going to try one of the ideas here — or how one of the ideas here has worked for you?