29 April 2013

Good Stories Gone Bad? How About Bad Stories Gone Wonderful?

Today, I am supposed to talk about good stories that have gone bad. You know, the ones that start out as a gloriously spectacular idea and end up a big fat mess.

And I have had those. Don't get me wrong. They give me shivers to think about and are under my bed with the hairy spiders, the voracious dust bunnies, and the creepy monster that groans in the night (no, wait, I forgot I figured out that was just me groaning in my sleep when I turn over).

So I could talk about them.

But I won't.

I want to talk about love. Life. And the gloriously beautiful human spirit.

The past few weeks have been loaded with tragedy. All of us feel the heartbreak, the devastation and desperation. Please except my deep, deep sympathies to those who were touched directly by the Boston bombings and the West Texas explosions. I am so sorry.

But I'm here to say that I have seen more generosity and selflessness in the past few weeks than I've seen in a long time. At Beyond the Veil we gathered around one of our own beloved authors, Xakara, in her time of need and asked for your help. Bless you one and all for contributing. You are angels.

I am so thankful for the men and women who risk their lives every single day to save strangers. And the regular folks who rush in to help others. I was brought to tears by the folks in Boston who ran toward the site of the first bombing, not knowing if there was another.

Last year, a friend of mine had a heart attack during a local triathlon. Do you know that people stood in line to administer CPR until the ambulance arrived? One after another kept his heart going and breathed life into his lungs. A doctor was in that group. He saw how bad off my friend was and told the last guy to stop the chest compressions. My friend had died. That young man, I'll never forget this, that wonderful selfless man (who prior to this moment had been a real competitor) screamed at the body lying there in the street. He yelled at him not to give up. He promised he wouldn't quit either and he didn't until the EMT got there.  My friend lived to tell the tale. In fact, he's still running. He absolutely credits those people who came to his aide and saved his life. Especially the young man who didn't give up on him and he hopes to race against again soon.

Saving lives, offering strength, a hand, a gentle word, a small act of kindness...  This is love people. This is who we can choose to be. Please, take the time to love.

Thank you,

Kimberley Troutte
Kimberley's website

28 April 2013

Do get Fresh...or not

Trying to keep writing fresh in my opinion is more about revamping, twisting the old than starting with something entirely new.

I will occasionally watch a movie and wish for a different ending or maybe see something that I'd like to mash up. 

However that said I truly believe the heart of most romances follows your basic fairy tale or love story.

We've seen your: Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet and that's okay.  Why?  Because readers love these stories and they love the resolution that occurs, well maybe not the Romeo/Juliet ending but we tend to make that a happy one.

There's nothing saying that Cinderella can't fall in love with her fairy godmother, That the beast can't be a merman or that Juliet has to be a girl.  You get the idea.

Taking an old story  and putting a new face on it makes it both familiar and fantastical to the reader. 


24 April 2013

Getting Fresh

The topic for this month was where we get 'fresh ideas'. Seems to me that everyone's taken a look at where they get their ideas.

I got thinking about what makes them fresh.

And the answer to that is so easy and so complicated that people really struggle with it.

To me, a 'fresh' idea has to have a hint of the familiar to it. It's a way of looking at something we've ALL SEEN BEFORE.

Romeo and Juliet -- with zombies.
Titanic -- in space.
Sleeping Beauty -- the cyborg.

Each of those twists allows us to tell a familiar story in a new way.

But that's just the beginning.

Because each of us here could be given one of those story ideas as a prompt, and we'd each write the story very differently, because we each bring our own stuff to the table. I'm always absorbed with themes of right and wrong, lies and truth, bravery and cowardice (for example) while another author might be more focused on themes around family and trust, for example.

Ideas are great. They get me motivated, get me excited about a project. But often, the fresh twist that brought me the story -- is the thing that gets lost along the way. "Sleeping Beauty the cyborg" sounds great, but as I brainstorm, I might discover that the story REALLY works if I make her a zombie, instead. Or if I don't use the Sleeping Beauty myth at all.

It's hard to allow myself to let The Idea go sometimes. Because really, Sleeping Beauty, the cyborg (or even zombie!) sounds pretty freaking cool. But sometimes, that's what the story needs so that I can frame the story I REALLY want to tell --which isn't Sleeping Beauty the cyborg, but how absolute power corrupts, or how right can be done for the wrong reasons or whatever my own truth is that I really want to explore.

23 April 2013

Thank you

To all the readers of Beyond the Veil for your generosity.  Xakara's Fundrazr exceeded all our hopes.  She and her family are in a much better place thanks to you.
Thank you.  That is all.


Jean Marie

18 April 2013

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Pictures of RavenCon 2013

If a picture's really worth a thousand words, I just might be able to make up for being such a bad blogger this year.  Besides, you'd much rather see the faces and costumes of RavenCon than hear me blather.  So, without further ado, thirteen photos from RavenCon 2013
Author Laurel Anne Hill shows off a steampunk style perfectly suited to her story in the anthology Shanghai Steam.
Fan Guest of Honor Carla Brindle and Writing Guest of Honor Kevin J. Anderson frame one of Carla's amazing cakes.  Since RavenCon flaunts Richmond's Edgar Allan Poe vibe, Carla baked a fully functional chest containing a beating cake heart. The book leaning next to it was edible, too.  And I can personally attest that it tasted great.
Sarah Black and Braxton Ballew of Valentine Wolfe perform their first concert of the weekend.
With Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta as the con's Writer Guests of Honor, the costumes were guaranteed to glory in Steampunk.
But Star Wars was well represented by the 501st Legion and this fierce Tusken Raider.  Star Trek sent Klingons...and a jail!  But you have to go to my Flickr page to see that. 
There were Steampunk writers, too. From left to right: Emilie Bush, David Lee and a guy I really think I ought to recognize...
Comics artist Monica Marier gleefully admitted she crafted her shiny SF costume to draw potential customers' eyes.
You knew there had to be at least one panel shot, didn't you?  Here (from left to right) Jim Bernheimer, Gail Z. Martin, Ron Garner and John Betancourt discuss professional self-publishing.
There were two book launch parties, but I only took still shots of Leona Wisoker's event. Here Leona (center in black) discusses the role of coffee in the party and in her new novel Fires of the Desert.
More Steampunk-y goodness. From some overheard conversation (in the bar, naturally) I understand this group later won the Masquerade. Alas, I didn't catch their names, but I do recall that it was the gentleman's first costume competition.
Don't tell anyone, but I can't identify these costumes--and I know I should! Sob.
Masquerade Masters of Ceremony Billy Flynn (left in scarf) and Rich Sigfrit (to Billy's right) introduce the Ghostbusters of RavenCon.
There were belly dancers, too.  And much, much more.  If you'd like a bigger taste, please, check out the rest of my pictures or follow the links from the RavenCon Facebook page.  It's not too early to sign up for 2014, after all.
Jean Marie Ward

16 April 2013

Passing the hat for one of our own

Lousy doesn't begin to cover the events of this week. Most of us are still in shock over the bomb at the Boston Marathon, checking in with our New England friends, and hugging our loved ones tight.

Unfortunately, great tragedies on the world stage doesn't make the everyday ones go away. It doesn't even slow them down, which brings me back to friends and loved ones.

Xakara, whose books (from Samhain and Liquid Silver) and Beyond the Veil blogs are guaranteed to make you smile, is stuck at the intersection of Bad Economy and Worse Health.  Her unemployment benefits ran out before her disability benefits could kick in, and like a character in a 1920s melodrama, the landlord is at the door demanding the rent. Seriously, folks, the landlord couldn't extend her due date for one. More. Week. She needs the money by Friday, or she'll lose her home on Saturday.

Which is where we--and hopefully you--come in.  We've established a Fundrazr account to send money directly to Xakara. The beauty of Fundrazr is you can pay however you choose, including Paypal. All you have to do is click the big red heart/donate button.

Beyond the Veil doesn't do this sort of thing often. We're a free blog, with free content. But sometimes, the need is so great we have to reach out. We can't do anything about the haters who leave bombs in duffel bags. But we can do something to help the people who bring love and laughter into our lives.

I hope you will do something to help Xakara.


Jean Marie

15 April 2013

Tales of the Were by Bianca D'Arc

For the past few weeks, I've been doing two main things - writing my upcoming book, Tales of the Were: Grif and packing goodies for the big RT convention in about 2 weeks. I have to mail a ton of stuff ahead to be at the hotel when I arrive and that all requires me to be done with packing and sending on a somewhat tight schedule. Eek!
I thought today, maybe I'd give you all a little insight into Grif and the whole series...

Grif is trying to find some peace of mind in the mountains, but instead finds a human woman named Lindsey, being hassled by the local werewolf Pack. They're trying to drive her off and Grif realizes almost immediately that he can't let that happen. He needs to find out why the wolves are so dead set against her and help her overcome whatever conflict is between them, so he can keep her nearby. His inner cat demands Lindsey's presence and Grif finds himself prowling near her home in his cougar form, watching over her safety both day and night.
The book, Grif, is named for the hero of the book, Griffon Redstone, CEO of Redstone Construction and Alpha of one of the most influential shifter Clans in the U.S. I've mentioned him in previous installments of this series and his brothers and cousins have appeared in other books - most notably, Matt Redstone, who is a favorite character from the novel Sweeter Than Wine, which is technically part of my Brotherhood of Blood series, though the two series do crossover a bit here and there.

Grif picks up immediately after the action of my most recent book, Tales of the Were: Slade.

In Slade, they are tracking the killers of the Redstone matriarch. Grif and his whole family, including the youngest, a pre-teen girl named Belinda, are traumatized by the murder of their mother. In Grif's book, he leaves the homestead in Nevada and takes little Belinda out into the wilds of Wyoming, to the family cabin, to help them both recover from the shocking loss of their mom.

The intrigue thickens when two of Grif's brothers arrive in Wyoming with news that the feral shifter who killed their older sister a while back, is stalking them all. Grif fears for Belinda's safety, but also for Lindsey - the woman he thinks is his mate.

Along the way there are some rather heated love scenes between Grif and Lindsey... and even a little naughty threesome action. ;-) There's also a deep and abiding love between Grif and his new mate that cannot be denied. He'd do anything for her - including sacrifice himself so that she can remain safe.

I plan to release Grif's book in late May, if all continues as planned. And part of the "master plan" is a sub-series of Tales of the Were stories that will start with Grif and end with the youngest Redstone brother, Matt. I'm going to call these 5 books, Redstone Clan books, though they are technically part of the overall Tales of the Were series. Yeah, I know it could get a little confusing, but I'm not sure how else to do it.

Grif will start the sub-series, followed by the intriguing story introduced in Tales of the Were: Slade, of Magnus Redstone and his mysterious vampire lover. We're going to find out how Mag knows Miranda, the trapped vampire we meet at the end of Slade. So we're going to mix it up a bit. Cougar shifters, werewolves, vampires... You get the picture.

The Redstone Clan sub-series will be released over the rest of 2013 and into 2014. It even has it's own little graphic, that will appear on all the covers. Neat huh?

In the meantime, you can already get the stories that lead up to this sub-series. The Tales of the Were to this point, are as follows:
1. Lords of the Were
2. Inferno
2.5 The Purrfect Stranger (only available from AllRomanceEbooks.com at this time - it's a short story)
3. Rocky
4. Slade
5. Grif (coming soon)

And there you have all the info on the Tales of the Were. I didn't really mean to go on so long in this post, but it's done now and I hope it answered some questions for some of you.

- Bianca

Come over to The D'Arc Side... www.biancadarc.com

14 April 2013

Mah Brain

Which can be quite the convoluted place at times, is always full of characters.

If I wasn't writing, well that's not even a question I can comprehend. I think about other professions I wouldn't mind doing, but my brain would still be full of stories.

And that's the lead in to this ramble. I get asked all the time where I get ideas for my stories.

Last night I said to a friend that my Muse is on crack when talking about where I got the idea for Incarnate.

After our laugh I said I got the idea watching Ice Road Truckers when I was dealing with my newborn.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation mixed with my fascination of the north which brought about it.

Honestly, anything can trigger an idea.

Music, a picture, something someone says.

My most recent idea, which is still percolating in my brain, was from watching a lot of Dr. Quinn and visiting Montana this past summer.

My imagination has always been full.

I was quite happy spending my Saturday and Sunday in my room playing with my dolls. Inventing up crazy story lines for them. There was always a villain. Always.

So I can't say for sure what specifically will inspire me. A lot of things do. I do know one thing for certain, I wouldn't trade away my very full and weirdly wired brain for anything.

11 April 2013

Helloooo, Muse!

Where do you get your ideas? This is a common question of authors. I'm not sure there's a common answer and I'm not sure there's even a "right" answer. I've heard people tell me they must be inspired. They must be in the mood. They can't write because they don't have an idea. To me, this is horsefeathers. One doesn't need an idea to write, one needs the simple act of applying ass to chair and write down what's in your head. It's hard at first, and sometimes in the middle, but it gets easier the more you do it. There's no magic to it. You just do it. The job description is "writer," not "waiter and seer of ideas," or "inspired person," or any of a hundred other myths. Audacity is what gets it done, not even necessarily talent.

So where can one get ideas?

Good thing you asked! It just so happens that this month, I'm teaching a free workshop over at Coffee Time Romance called "Using Prompts to Expand Your Repertoire". We'll explore where to get ideas and what to do with them once we get them. We'll play and write a lot and in the process, maybe just get an answer to the question, where do we get ideas?

Here are some of the places I get mine:

  1. Writing prompts - they create a picture in my mind and I tell a story
  2. Pictures - I've always been visually stimulated. I love going to the museum, walking outside in nature, wandering around a park, or poking around online.  The waterfall above is from Starved Rock State Park and I took that shot last Spring.
  3. Scents - I love scents and the way they stimulate the emotions. Try wandering into your spice rack and pull something off at random, sit down and inhale over it. Then pick up your pen and see what happens.
  4. Consequences - as an abuse survivor, consequences fascinate me because so often, bad behavior goes unchecked.  Many of my stories involve consequences of one sort or another.
  5. Solving problems with society - after all, until they install a phone line directly to my cell phone from the President's office, this is my way of changing the world one sentence at a time.
What inspires you?

08 April 2013

Ideas Galore

Greetings Kittens,

So we’re here to talk about ideas and from whence they come. Like most authors, it would be easier to list what doesn’t inspire me, but right this moment, I’m having a hard time with that, so let’s stick with idea origins.

With me, it can be anything. A single sentence can be enough to set off another 100k words to keep it company. I don’t always know how the sentence is born, but dreams play a big part. I tend to be lucid or semi-lucid most nights and I’m a vivid dreamer, with good recall. Since my subconscious can’t be bothered with logical jumps and continuity, it’s a chance to just let go and roll with anything and everything.

Daily entertainments are a big inspiration as well. On good days, I can get through a chapter, or to the end of an episode, before I start rewriting everything. On a more average day, I’m lucky to make it to a point-of-view or commercial break before my mind spins in a million different directions on how to do it differently.

Every conversation and occurrence around me carries the potential of a story within it. Every new skill I learn spins the great “what if” and allows me to go deeper. And right now, even my illness is a journey with the potential for more. So if you come across a paranormal with a heroine who hoops, bakes and may have an alien shape-shifting virus, altering her DNA, give it a whirl.

07 April 2013

Gaming and writing - what fun!


Recently the hubby and I went to a local gaming store for International Tabletop Day, a day devoted to tabletop games and all the fun that goes along with it. The idea is to try out and discover new games that you usually wouldn't try on your own and without buying them, of course. It's a great way to find something new to add to your huge game collection. (okay, OUR huge game collection...)

The idea of International Tabletop Day came from Felicia Day and was/is supported by Wil Wheaton. (yes, *those* two) The two of them, proud geeks, often review tabletop games and post reviews on Day's page, Geek and Sundry.

So we discovered Smallworld.  Discovered, played and purchased on the same day. Same with another board game.

Smallworld is a fantasy type of Risk – you take over territories with your fantasy characters such as Orcs and Giants. It's a great game and I recommend it if you like that sort of conquering the board fun.

Now I know what you're thinking – what the heck does this have to do with writing? Or reading? Or anything other than geeks, not that there's anything wrong with that…

I find gaming to be a wonderful way to kick back and generate new stories without really having to work at it – the games we play tend to create their own reality and it's fun to work and play in someone else's world for a bit.

When I return to the computer after a good gaming session I'm usually reinvigorated. Not because I've found a story to write necessarily (and any gamer can tell you that often the story is so *not* what counts in a good session) but the ability to step into another character's shoes (or armor) allows me not to only stretch my creative muscles but also to watch and study others as they work their way through situations.

It doesn't have to be a role playing game as well – we picked up the X-Wing miniatures game based on some good tutorials and jumped on that this past Tuesday for our weekly gaming night. It was great to play a rookie pilot running into two other rookie pilots on the other side and the resulting dogfighting.

So if you're stuck for an idea and want to boost your creativity, why not check out some great board games for inspiration? Grab a copy of Smallworld or kick back with a game of old-school chess or even Monopoly (if you want a family fight but that's another column!).









05 April 2013

Curiosity Made an Author

I’m insatiably curious. Before the advent of cable TV and the internet that character trait got me into all kinds of trouble because reading the books available to me (including the encyclopedia) wasn’t enough. I used to try and get into people’s business. I wanted to know everything and sometimes the only way to understand was to boldly go where most others had sense not to venture. Now people reveal the most intimate details online, even stuff I’d hesitate to talk to my husband about.

Yeah. The interwebs is my friend. It provides me with more fodder than I could ever use. My ‘favorites’ folder is filled with sites that provide obscure information about a huge variety of subjects but, strangely enough, I rarely turn to it for inspiration. Instead, it’s actually a by-product of roaming the internet researching an idea, hoping to find something to fill it out. The inspiration itself comes from that basic part of my character, which hasn’t changed with age—I’m still horribly curious.

I’ll hear a passing comment on the bus, see a picture on TV, read an article in the newspaper or online, and something in my brain goes, “TWANG! What was that???” It can be one little thing, one little detail, and I’m all over it like a cheap suit. Richard the Lionheart spent very little of his reign in England. Remains of red-haired Caucasians were found in ancient Chinese tombs. Vikings blanketed the known world during their heyday. The ancient Romans had dildos. Ballroom floors were chalked, sometimes with elaborate murals done by talented artists, before balls.

Any tiny snippet of information can set me off and the next thing I know, I’m researching and then weaving a story—usually either in the shower or in bed, as I drift to sleep. Often the storyline starts with, “Suppose…” or “What if…”. Sometimes the evolving story doesn’t even include the piece of information I started out with, but without that kernel, that catalyst, the story wouldn’t have come into being at all.

So, if we happen to meet in person and are talking, and I suddenly look as though I’m in a trance, you’ve probably said something to get my twisty, turny brain whirling. But don’t worry, I change all the names in my stories to protect both the innocent and the guilty! J

04 April 2013

Generating Ideas: What the Heck Does Big Valley Have to Do With Steampunk?

I watched the Big Valley growing up, mostly on lazy Saturday afternoons. I started watching again a couple of years ago when the Inspiration Channel began running it twice daily. Soon my DVR was full of Big Valley episodes. I even blogged about what you can learn from watching the show. Hint: do not mess with Barbara Stanwyck. It never ends well.

Watching it made me want to write a Western. But then I realized that while the setting attracted me, what really hooked me on the show were the characters. Three brothers, all different personalities, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Hmmm...three brothers, different templates, different types of heroes..aha...

It so happens I need to add some brothers for the hero of my steampunk romantic mystery. The hero of those stories is based on Sherlock Holmes but I twisted his origin a bit. My consulting detective is the youngest son of an English Duke by his much younger second wife. The wife also happened to be Indian, so while my hero isn't illegitimate, he's definitely considered a half-breed.

Without realizing, I'd created a youngest son, a half-brother from a lower class who resents that he was not completely accepted as a member of the family. In other words, someone very like Heath Barkley, the youngest son on Big Valley.

The next book in the series (as yet unpublished but hopefully that will change) will send my detective to his family. And now I have a good idea what his older brothers and his mother will be like.

The lesson? Ideas are all over. And they can germinate for literally years before making their way into a book, as my love of Big Valley did. They can come from completely unrelated subjects. Learning about plant biology gave me an idea of how the magic works in my steampunk story. A vacation to Maine years ago made its way into Phoenix Rising in the form of the cabin where the heroine takes the hero to get away from it all.

It's the writer's mind. It's when I've sliced my knee open and I'm about to faint and I wish I had a notebook handy so I could write down what it feels like just before a person faints.

So where do I get my ideas? As Sherlock Holmes once said, people see but they do not observe. I try to observe and absorb as much as possible. :)

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. You can find her at www.corrina-lawson.com

03 April 2013

My Journey into Self-Publishing

Yeah, okay, so I self-published a book. For the record, I have no problem with self-publishing, EXCEPT when people do it half-assed and expect to make millions. First of all, historically that's not been the case. You have your one or two exceptions, but overall many self-published books are flops. And those that DID make a boat load of money will tell you that they did it RIGHT, and that means they spent a lot of money and paid people to help them get it out right.

So why did I do it? A list:

1. This is not my first book. I've been through the commercial publishing process before, so I KNOW what's supposed to happen.
2. This book is made of two republished short stories. There is a novel that goes with them, and the original publisher never did anything with them, but they are part of a shared universe, so I can't submit them to any other publishers. I have permission to put them out myself, or else they'd never see the light of day, and that would kind of be a shame.  
3. Along with #2, these works have been edited. By myself, by the original series editor, by me again. They may not be perfect, but they're not fresh off the word processor, either. I am not one of those authors who thinks that the publishers 'just don't understand my voice' , nor do I have Golden Word Syndrome. I think there are a good number of self-published authors who turn to self-publishing for these two reasons. And then they get mad when the reviews trash their books. 
4. I'm not planning on making a lot of money with them. I'm not pushing these books. They are mostly for fans to have something else of mine to read, and for me to buy a few copies to take to events, and to even give away free on Kindle once in awhile. It's for FUN. 

IF I were to ever self-publish a work that I really wanted to push, there are several things I would do differently. I would:

a) Hire an editor. Not that these haven't been edited, but if I were publishing a story NOT in a shared universe, I would definitely find a good editor and PAY them. I would also have them help me write back cover copy.
b) BUY an ISBN myself, and give myself a publisher name. I got a free one from Amazon for this one, and they get to be the publisher of record. No biggie for this book, but if I were putting out an original work that I really wanted to push, I would.
c) HIRE a cover artist. I chose Amazon stock art for this first book, and paid a modest fee to iStockphoto for the cover art for the novel (which is almost ready, I just have to finish writing the back cover copy).  I used their flat template too, and would have the artist design one specifically for my book. 
d) I would fill out all the forms for the Library of Congress and register the copyright. I didn't do either this time, because, like I said, these books are pretty much for fun.
You can see that all of these things cost money.  And that's always my point about self-publishing -- if you're gonna do it (and not just for fun), you need to PAY for the things a publisher pays for.  And if you don't have any idea what a commercial publisher does, then you'd better LEARN before you get started.

Now, myself, I have managed to figure out how to format the book for both print and Kindle (which was an ordeal, but now that I've done it, I can do it again and faster), but if you're not tech savvy or don't have the time (and it WAS time consuming), then you're going to need to HIRE someone to do that for you as well. 
On the up side, now that I've done it, I kind of have some insight into what it takes.  CreateSpace/Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing is a good way to go. 

There are some things they don't tell you about Kindle formatting (which I had to find out through the forums), but once you figure them out, it's a piece of cake.

By the way, here's the link to the new book: Wizard Academies: The Kingsbridge Chronicles (paperback) and Wizard Academies: The Kingsbridge Chronicles (Kindle Edition).  You can download a sample from the Kindle edition and check it out! 

01 April 2013

Fresh Ideas, Where Do They Come From?

The simple answer? Everywhere.

Real life is fodder for my fictional worlds. Anything and everything goes. 

If a subject interests me, I will read all I can about it. My author brain likes to take the interesting topic and say "what if". 

For example, when researching earthquakes I wondered what it would be like to be trapped in one. And what if a claustrophobic heroine--who's greatest fear is being tied down--becomes buried alive during an earthquake and must trust the hero--who's greatest fear is losing the woman he loves--to search the rubble and get her out before the world crashes down. 

Sometimes an idea smacks me upside the head when I least expect it. Like when I'm in the shower or exercising. 

We've all seen Psycho, so let's skip the shower scene. But what if during, say, a yoga class the students wear blindfolds and the heroine accidentally wanders onto a mat that isn't hers. With her hands in front of her she bumps into a hard male who uses his hands to figure out who she is. Who is he and why does he whisper her name? 

Stories are all around us. It just takes a little "what if" and imagination to turn an interesting topic or setting into a seller.