Story Ideas ~ Imagination Mining and Lightening Strikes


Every writer’s process is different for developing stories. Personally, I can’t just sit down and write a story.  I have to see it, hear it…the characters have to talk to me, compel me to want to learn more about them, to care about them.  In November I began to embark on writing a new western series…well…almost.  I began to think about writing a new series. This is the first time I have finished a book and didn’t have another already in the works. I was starting with a blank page and this vague idea to write a BookGrowseries based on the founding and development of a western boomtown. But where, who, and what historical element could I tap into? Too many options can be a mind-boggling thing!  I went on a research book-buying spree and poured over books about pioneer doctors, pioneer teachers, mail-order brides, western madams, desperados, railroads and ranchers–in a sense I was mining for characters, sparks of inspiration to help me form a community. I read countless intriguing tales, and yet, nothing really called to me, no voices or faces of new characters formed in my mind. I’m not one to take notes (I’d only lose them), either something takes hold in my mind or it doesn’t. I needed a series title, character names. For me, these are cornerstones I use to build a visual foundation and a connection to my story.

It wasn’t until I’d gone to Borders to find a World War II book for one of my boys that I happened across GREAT MAPS OF THE CIVIL WAR—not just a map book, but one with a pocket on each page containing a map of a major battle, and on the pages were accounts and information about the cartographers who drew those maps. I had never realized what a huge part these map makers played in the war or the danger they faced. Cartographers on both sides risked their lives to survey battle grounds where opposing troops patrolled and capturing the others maps was a prized advantage. I was mesmerized for days and began to see an image of a hero, a scarred and callous Civil War veteran and skilled cartographer who’s life now has no direction (much like my writing at this point!).  One tidbit of information that had stuck out in my mind from earlier readings about post Civil War was the movement of the railroad and their campaigns to lay routes into the mining territories of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Since I’ve already written a series in Wyoming, minerthe other two states were at the top of my list for possible locations. This newly forming hero was the perfect candidate for a railroad surveyor team to travel  into the western frontier for possible railroad routes. 


I still had no heroine, no set location, no burning drive to lead this team in one direction or another. All through November and December as I shopped and worked on my house I chipped away at the hardpan of my brain, trying to find the vein of my story.  As of last week I was still waffling between Colorado and Montana…did the heroine meet up with the men on the trail or was she already in a mining community–was she a widow, a virgin, a spitfire with a grudge against the railroad? What was the significance of their first encounter? Nothing would stand out and sing to me. I needed a bolt of lightening!! Just one strong jolt to charge this story and bring my characters to life!


This past Monday my boys went back to school and as I drove home in the blessed silence, I heard it, this soft whisper in my mind…Copper Canyon.  I don’t know lighteningwhere those particular words came from—perhaps the copper faucets I’ve been trying to decide on for the new kitchen (still haven’t moved home), but this moment was the lightening strike I’d been waiting for, the charge of inspiration to breath life into these characters who’d been bumping around in my mind, waiting to be grounded. I got home and Googled Copper and Montana. Wouldn’t you know, Montana had the world’s largest copper mine, first discovered in the early 1870’s–the major vein wasn’t tapped into until the 1890’s–the early claims were just enough to start small booms–Eureka!!!!!


After two months of mining and chiseling out vague impressions of character story arcs my Copper Canyon Series has life!  In the past few days I’ve been fleshing out the characters and storyline which has been unfolding in my mind with bold color. This is a picture I sent to my editor with the suggestion for the series title…the working series title, which could change–as they usually do 😉 



This is where I’ll be for the next few months, and the months after that as I dig into the second book in the series–which is already coming along nicely–strange how a single spark can make such a huge difference.


Here’s wishing lots of lightening strikes for all y’all!  Anyone else’s new year starting off with a bang?  I hit a bit of a bump on Tuesday when I got a speeding ticket after dropping off my boys *ggg* My resolution was to find balance in ’09, so I guess that balanced out my excitement from Monday–I guess I need balance and Cruise Control  😉


My upcoming June Anthology STETSONS, SPRING AND WEDDING RINGS, with authors Jillian Hart and Judith Stacy, is already up for Pre-order on Amazon! 

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27 thoughts on “Story Ideas ~ Imagination Mining and Lightening Strikes”

  1. Don’t you just love those lightning strikes! I hope you get to keep the series title. It has a wonderful ring to it.

    I didn’t really start the new year off with a bang, though this morning I’m struggling to type after burning my finger on the stove whilst fixing the kids some oatmeal.

    Added the anthology to my wish list on amazon. Have a great day!

  2. Love this, Stacey. One beautifully written answer to the wearisome question, “WHere do you get your ideas?” Sounds like you’ve got a great book going.
    My process is a lot like yours. I’m not a note taker either. As I tell people, it’s like making stew. You put in a little of this, a little of that and let it simmer for a while–sometimes a long while. Keep us posted on your progress.

  3. Stacey what is that picture? Is there really a Copper Canyon. I LOVE that picture and I need an absolutely beautiful painted picture for my WIP. Because my latest hero is a western artist. This is a lot like the vision I had in mind, although last night when I was brainstorming (Sooooooooo much nicer sounding then ‘lying awake like an insomniac lunatic unable to stop thinking about my book’) I had a different idea and may go with that….for a picture he can paint, I mean.

  4. Hi Mary! I found the painting by Googling Butte, Montana, which was the copper mining capital of the world. The only actual Copper Canyon I could find was in Mexico–which is awesome!! My town can be wholey fictoinal and I’ll use Butte as a nearby location reference.

    A western artist hero sounds fab! I’m still trying to convince my hubby that staring into space is part of the writing profession 😉

  5. Thank you, Elizabeth! There’s a lot of times when I sit back after writing a piece and wonder, “where the heck did THAT come from?” *lol* You are so right about adding the stew and then letting it simmer…I wish I had more control over that simmer time 😉 A very precarious element of writing under deadline, huh?

  6. You know I often pick a fictional town by looking at the state next door of my setting until I find a town name I like, then googling it for the state I’m using to make sure there ISN’T one.

    Mosqueros, Texas is the setting for my Lassoed in Texas series. There is no Mosqueros in Texas, but there is one in New Mexico.

    I always hope by doing that, I won’t pick some name that … especially in a Mexican sounding name like Mosqueros…translates into something I didn’t intend.
    So finding a Copper Canyon in another state is brillian.

  7. ((HUGS)) on the burnt finger, Taryn 🙁

    Thanks for adding the anthology to your wish list! This was my first stab at writing a story under 400 manuscript pages…I usually have a hard time keeping them under 400 *lol*

  8. What a great idea for serching for a town name, Mary! Wu-Wo on the transtation *G*. I was surprised (and thankful) I didn’t find a Copper Canyon in Montana–another sign the title was meant to be…at least for me–I’ll let Harlquin deal with the final cover approval 😉 I just need to GET IT WRITTEN 😀

  9. Stacey,

    Thanks for bringing us along in your creative process. How I love Montana. Actually my husband and I are thinking of moving to Montana — maybe — in the future. California in our opinion is no longer the easy go-lucky California of our past and my husband is from Montana, also — and then that’s where the Blackfeet are and I am an adopted member of that tribe. Also, my husband does alot of work with copper — interestingly.

    Great post, Stacey!

  10. Hi Karen! I’m with you–I’d love to move to Montana. We have our sights on a few of those northwestern states. Your husbands copper work does sound interesting!
    Thanks for sharing 😀

  11. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas and methods, Stacey. The new series will be as great as your other ones, I’m sure.

    How thrilling, being able to design your own town!

    Great start to my day.

  12. I love it when those sparks of inspiration hit!

    I have a story in the works…started out as one for the Wayback (contemporary cowboy)series @ The Wild Rose Press – but of course once the Holy Spirit takes over, it has turned into an inspirational LOL!

    Anyway, started with a character from my Tempered series Lori Strickland and a burned out, banged up bull-rider turned preacher named Rafe Judson.


    Working title: Lori’s Redemption.

    Have about 9k words written, ran out of steam and out of time but plan to get on it again soon.

    I love your picture and “Copper Canyon” – good luck with it.

  13. Hi Stacey,

    I loved your mental description of your “lightning” strike. It’s funny how the process works for all of us, isn’t it? And I love the title of your anthology… very catchy. Did you get a chance to work with Dorothy (Judith Stacey)? She’s a good friend of mine!

    Good luck with the series … now that you have the setting down, the words will flow!

  14. Stacey, thanks so much for sharing your trials and angst. It really hit the nail on the head for me. I’ve been trying to think of a new story and like you, I’ve hit a brick wall. Nothing is coming to mind. I thought I was the only writer who goes through this. I definitely need that spark of inspiration. And a lot of times that lightning strike just comes from the blue like it did you. I’m so glad you got what you needed. Your new series sounds wonderful. I don’t think I’ve read a story (at least not recently) about a hero who draws maps. That’s different and very good!

    I love the title for your new anthology! Just smacks of western romance. Can’t wait for it to come out. Do you have the cover yet?

    Great topic today!

  15. Aw, thank you, Tawnya! I hope so 🙂 I keep wiating for my writer’s confidence to kick in…but it sure is slow coming 😉

    I’m excuted about the town–love secondary characters *lol*

  16. Rafe Judson–love that name, Pamela!! Too funny about the wholly spirit taking over. Sounds like a fabulous story!! I hope the rest comes smoothly 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  17. Thank you, Charlene! The title came as a surprise last month–last I’d heard it was teh Spring Brides Anthology, but my editor was really excited about the title change. I was a little bummed to lose “Bride” from the title, as this is part of my Bride series, but it’s kinda catchy isn’t it 🙂

    I haven’t gotten to work with Jillian or Dorothy–have never spoken with either of them–but I sure hope to!! The three stories are only related by the “courtship” theme. I’m axious for proofs so I can read their stories.

    Thanks for the luck!!!

  18. Hi Linda! You are so NOT ALONE 😀 Percolating time always scares me, because I’m never sure how long it will take my mind to chip out the right mix so I can finally get words on the page. Watching two months of a deadline tick by and not having a solid word on the page for book one was nerve-wracking—especially since I missed my WILD 3 deadline by three months! I extended my deadline for this series and I’m so glad I did, or I’d be sweating bullets by now *lol*

    You’re lightening bolt is on the way, Linda, I’m sure of it–and your story will be fantastic! I can’t wait!! I’ve been catching up on my P&P reading this morning and I love the description of your daily routine–perhaps a routine would help me to stay on track 😀

    No cover yet for the anthology–hopefully June covers will come out next month. Seems so far away but I know June will be here before I know it 😉

  19. How gorgeous, Stacey! And I do like Copper Canyon — it’s very catchy! 🙂 Can’t wait for your releases this year, and am very happy to hear that inspiration is striking from all around 😉 Woohoo!

  20. After the chaos which closed out my year, (I tried
    to do too much, especially over the holidays!) I’ve
    resolved to keep everything low-key this year!!!

    Pat Cochran

  21. I enjoyed reading about some of your writting process. Inspiration can occur at odd times as well as in interesting ways. I keep a notebook and pen by my bed because I often wake up in the night to a solution to something I was wrestling with.
    I will be looking for these books!

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