One book leads to another...

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

What a Novel Idea!

Welcome Readers and fellow Writers, to the February 2019 online meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Founded by author Alex Cavanaugh and comprised of writing members just like you (and me), featuring writing tips, resources, articles, contests, and IWSG swag! See what we’re all talking about here and join us as we share our writing journeys.

*We meet on the first Wednesday of every month – join us and enjoy!

Visit our gracious Co-hosts, and let them know you’re here:  Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

As for me,

Though our “cold snap” was nowhere near the Polar Vortex experienced in other areas of our nation, I managed to learn something new! Did you know that if you cut a potato in half and rub it over your windshield the night of an expected deep-freeze, you won’t have to scrape ice off the window in the morning? If this is eye-roll worthy, consider this: in my part of the world, we’re glad for winter months when snakes and such go away for a while. Which reminds me, another new idea I plan to try this year is the placement of a fake snake in the garden – or even on my windshield at night, to deter birds and small critters from eating fruit, and/or setting up house in the engine compartment of my car. In case you’re wondering where I learned these novel ideas, here’s a hint and a Philosofact from Farmer’s Almanac: “Nature is amazing: Who would have thought of growing a flyswatter on the rear end of a cow?”

Speaking of Novel Ideas, what is or was the most surprising inspiration for one of yours?
As if “The Year Without a Summer” (1816) wouldn’t be enough to inspire a story, Mary Shelley of “Frankenstein” fame happened to be among guests at Lord Byron’s when he proposed a ghost story challenge to pass the time.

Lee Child came up with a name for the protagonist in his incredibly successful crime thriller series while shopping with his wife. After he’d plucked a can of fruit from a high shelf, she proclaimed him a good “Reacher and sparked the idea for the name Jack Reacher.

When George Orwell idly pondered the possible consequences of animals realizing their own strength, “Animal Farm” was born.

As in all too many towns, we have our share of homeless people; those public park dwellers, and street-corner beggars who wouldn’t take a job if one was offered. When one such (healthy-looking) person pressed a cardboard sign that read: “Hungry” against my window as I waited for the light to change, I shrugged and mouthed “Me too.” The man could work for his living, just as I do, I groused.  It actually bugged me long enough to wonder what could happen if they all had jobs they didn’t know about. And suddenly, I had an exciting new twist for a story I was losing interest in. 
The (optional) Question of the Month is: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?” 

When required, one of my job duties is to decorate (within budget, of course) after home renovations have been completed. Achieving “RFM (ready for market)” status is just as satisfying now as it was when I played with dollhouses as a kid. 

So, what’s your most novel idea? Given a choice of music or nature, what would inspire you more? Are you going to miss those chalky little candy hearts?


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Those are indeed novel ideas for keeping your windshield free of ice on frosty mornings and for keeping unwanted critters out of your garden and away from your car's engine block. Mrs. Shady and I erected an old fashioned scarecrow in our back yard to keep intruders from nibbling on crops in her herb and vegetable garden. As you might know, Western feed and supply stores sell products containing the urine of predatory animals including wolves. When sprayed around the perimeter of your property they supposedly ward off stray cats and other unwanted pests.

    I also found it interesting to read your examples of novel ideas that led to the development of popular characters in literature. Rarely do I come up with a novel idea when I am at my desk and it is convenient. Novel ideas, the best ones, typically pop into my head when I am in the shower or trying to get to sleep at night. I suppose it would be a "novel idea" for me to keep a dictation recording device or pen and paper in the bathroom because, in the time it takes me to dry off, get dressed and work my way to the office, most of my brainchildren have left the nest forgotten. It would also be a novel idea for me to take my own advice for a change. :)

    Your second question is impossibly difficult for me to answer because I can't imagine a world without music or without natural beauty. I would add "love" to that list. Words of a popular song now come to mind, a hit record for the English duo Peter & Gordon and for Bobby Rydell:

    I don't care what they say I won't stay
    In a world without love

    It's wonderful to see you again, dear friend diedre. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your week!

    1. Hi Shady!

      Did the scarecrow work well for Mrs. Shady’s garden? I’m afraid a life-sized chew toy might not be well received by the labs – particularly, one we call Nitro. She’s an unpredictable nut with more than a touch of undisclosed wildness included in her pedigree. Come to think of it, Nitro might just nix the whole fake snake idea!

      If a stray cat wandered into my yard, it wouldn’t be a stray any longer – I’d keep it! I miss having a cat or two. Outdoor cats are good to have around for keeping the packrat population down, though they have to beware of coyotes. In addition, herds of javelina roam the area too. That being said, we don’t have to go to the Feed store for wildlife scents ;-)

      “Most of my brainchildren have left the nest forgotten,” I love that, and I sure know what you mean. My husband sometimes sends himself emails during the night; reminders of things to be done in the morning. It’s even easier now that you can “speak” text. I suppose I ought to trade in the old flip-phone that rarely leaves my purse ;-)

      I appreciate the sentiment of the song you chose as an example of love; a wonderful addition to a list of inspirations that could easily reach around the globe.

      Thanks for the visit, my friend. I enjoyed it!

  2. Great idea about the potato for your windshield. I may try it when I stay at my boyfriends. And that is cool that you can be creative as part of your job.

    1. Hi Natalie!

      Potato deicing sounds easier than scraping, doesn’t it?

      I do enjoy the ‘finishing touch’ part of my job, and I really don’t mind the accounting side, but that’s where creativity is frowned upon ;-)

      Have a terrific February!

  3. It doesn't leave potato scat all over the windshield? Interesting. And I assume setting up house in your engine has happened before. Go for the fake snake.

    1. Hi Alex!

      I imagine the sugar from the potato, which acts as a deicer, might leave the surface a little gritty, but nothing a squirt of windshield washing fluid couldn’t handle ;-) Packrats are such a problem here that everyone appears to have car trouble at the same time; as we employ the use of drop lights with the hoods up to deter the varmints from getting too comfortable. I do like the fake snake idea.

  4. Is that really true about the potato? If so, it would definitely be put to good use, here. We survived the Polar Vortex but are now experiencing the "joys" of freezing rain. :P Interesting to learn how some writers get their ideas. It's great you can be creative at your day job, too. Sounds like fun!

    1. Hi Debbie!

      According to Farmer’s Almanac, it’s true. The sugar from the potato keeps the ice from forming. Sliced (raw) potatoes also work well for soothing kitchen burns, and coaxing splinters to slide right out of your skin. Pretty cool, huh?

      Gads, it sounds cold where you are – stay warm, my friend!

  5. Howdy, dIEDRE! ~
    I'm late... and tired. And I know you know why.

    This move really took it out of me, and I'm not even quite done yet. And the weather has been very uncooperative, which has done bad wonders to my stress level.

    Oh, well, I guess it's like Steve Miller wrote: "You got to go through hell before you get to Heaven". But right now, I'm wishing I were back in Phoenix, Arizona, where my truck wouldn't be buried under tons of snow.

    I hope things are going well for you, my friend.

    I've got so much brain fog right now that I'm not sure if what I'm about to write even ties in with your question(s). But you mentioned how several writers came up with ideas for their novels. And this one occurs to me...

    One day I was on Venice Beach, just dinking the day away, when I decided to stop into The Townhouse for a drink. Back then, The Townhouse was a real dive. Not like the more upscale nighttime destination it is today.

    So, I sat down at the bar and ordered a drink. And taking a sip from my glass at one point, I looked up and saw my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. And that's when I thought: What if there were a character who so disliked himself that while drinking in a bar and catching his reflection in the mirror, he would move to another bar stool so as not to have to look at himself?

    That one little character idea was the genesis for my one and only screenplay, 'Billy & Billie'. I just kept adding new details to that beginning until the story developed. (OK, that night he leaves the bar and... what? He finds a girl passed-out on the street, and... and away we go!)

    Take care, dIEDRE, and we'll yak again later.

    ~ D-FensDogG

    1. Howdy, Stephen T.!

      You made it! Frostbite notwithstanding. Don't you wish you could bundle up and sleep right through to summer? But, as Rodney Atkins sings "If you're goin' through hell, keep on rollin'...cause you might get out before the devil even knows you're there"
      On the other hand, now that they've rolled out the cold white carpet for you, you know what time of year you'll want to be elsewhere ;-)
      Venice Beach is a good title. I'd love to know how things work out for the wayward couple.
      Wishing you sunny days ahead!

  6. I would say music inspires me more, by far. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Gina!

      Thank you for stopping by ;-) I agree, the world needs music as much as trees need birds.

  7. Replies
    1. Hi Ronel!

      Thanks for taking time out of your fantastically busy schedule to have a peek at my contrastingly sluggish attempts at writing fulfillment ;-) Would that there were more hours in a day, weeks in a month… Until again, write away!

  8. Hi Diedre - interesting about the potato - if I had a car and if we had sufficient ice here ... I'd be trying that. Fake snake - good luck with that idea ... but I'd try it! Cheers Hilary


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