Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Water, Earth and Fire (& something funny & something cute)

Part of my weekend went up in smoke with an arson fire. Kevin was out but I’d heard the sirens. Not knowing what the call was, or if he’d even responded, I carried on with my evening, went to bed early.

Woke up at 2 am to find he wasn’t home. I’m developing that firefighter’s wife’s sixth sense. I knew it wasn’t a medical, or a car accident. A call that long? Had to be a fire.

I couldn’t get back to sleep. Times like those, the internet is my salvation, my diversion from worry. 4 am, he came home, his suit covered in soot, reeking of smoke.

Sunday, we drove out to the scene and I took my camera along. There we were, Kevin trying to hold me back from getting the soles of my shoes dirty, and me sharply reminding him that the first scene I photographed for my college paper was a fire.

Kevin’s been in training as a firefighter for over a year, and this year he started his safety codes training. That means he’s qualified to investigate a fire and determine cause. One of the people allowed to go behind the crime scene tape.

And no, none of you other crime writers are allowed to talk to him. Unless you bribe me sufficiently.

Seriously, just by nature of what he does, I end up with so many great ideas. The hardest part for me is holding back from working on new material. I usually wing it, no pre-plotting, and in about six weeks put down a first draft on a manuscript. Mind you, I have no life, but this is why I’ve got three manuscripts ready to hand off to the publisher. Well, two, they already have, actually.

But the third, Ashes and Embers, is one I felt a bit sad about on Sunday. It will be at least 2008 before Ashes and Embers is published. And when I’m standing ankle-deep in ash, shooting pictures of open flame licking the charred rubble because the wind’s picked up and the embers started burning again, I’m envisioning the scene at the beginning of A&E, when Carly arrives at an arson fire and they find…

Oh, ooops, sorry. Got carried away for a second, but I’d better not give away too much.

Seriously, the Canadian noir series is one that just has endless ideas. Book 3 has been gnawing at me for ages, and I’m trying not to start writing anything new until my edits on the first book are done. My creative brain really wants it to be August, when I usually draft my new book for the year, and news stories like this, about two fourteen-year-olds and a thirteen-year-old facing multiple bank robbery charges right in BC’s lower mainland, where my Canadian noir series is set, have me struggling to restrain myself.

People ask where you get your ideas. Truthfully, there is no shortage.

I know that the process of editing each book will make me stronger as a writer, and because of that, I think that Ashes and Embers will be a better book for time and experience. It’s just so hard to wait!

Some of you, no doubt, are cursing at me because you’re struggling with book 2 on a deadline.

But while I was thinking about this post, I realized that the elements have all featured in some way in the first three books.

Suspicious Circumstances has a backdrop of water behind the write-up for a reason. In fact, the original title was Blood In the Water, which turned out to be terribly unoriginal.

Echoes and Dust is about roots and the things some would rather leave buried, and not just crimes.

And Ashes and Embers has several strands weaving through it, but central to all is a series of arson fires that may or may not be connected to…the other stuff going on.

I never planned this element theme. Fire and water seem strangely appropriate. Fire should be obvious, with Kevin’s interests, but also my grandparent’s house burned down years ago. My one aunt, at the age of 13 I believe she was, actually rescued her youngest sister from the building. Any my friend Steve logs on to read jokes from the New Westminster Fire Department when he’s at work, fighting fires and saving the public.

Water. I grew up near the shores of Lake Muskoka, and I almost drowned at the age of 10. Not at the lake, but on a family camping trip. To this day I don’t like going into the water alone.

It isn’t like I planned this, but Kevin has suggested the next book be Death on the Hindenburg II. (Not likely!)

Where do you get your ideas from? And how do you decide what projects to write next?

Now, I must run along and check out what the enigmatic Cornelia Read is blogging about today. Bet you it’s the release of her book on Monday and how she sold 10 zillion copies and is swamped answering fan mail from incredibly famous people like Bono and Duane Swierczynski.

But first, I’m running over to Goody’s to read his weekly Darwin award-winners post, which always cracks me up and reassures me there are people dumber than I am out there.

At least until they become an entry on James’s fantastic blog. I hope there’s a healthy supply of stupid people so I don’t end up on there. At least, not because of a ridiculous death.

But before you go, check out Making Mom Proud

Seriously, this is pretty funny, so enjoy! I wanted you all to have it in time for Mother’s Day. And if you have brothers, or sons, you’ll really enjoy this.

Not so sure I like this, but it seemed fitting today…

In the dark ages, how would Sandra Ruttan die?

You would be burned as a heretic. At least you would go out in a blaze of glory ... or just a blaze. It all depends on how you spin it.
'How would you die in the dark ages?' at

Kitten pictures!


Erik Ivan James said...

My ideas just pop up. Don't know from where. Just a comment in everyday casual conversation can pop-up a story idea.

You likely will go out in a blaze of glory, but not by fire, but by fame.

Kitty pictures are adorable. Keep them all.

Trace said...

Echoes and Dust and Ashes and Embers are such awesome titles. I suck at titles.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Pretty much the same, Erik. You never know how inspiration will strike.

Trace, I have a rotten time with titles. Really awful. I hate picking titles. I think everything I've written so far except Ashes and Embers has gone through a title change, and you never know, it could too!

angie said...

That is one mess-o-cutie-kitties! I'm sure they keep you busy & entertained.

Isn't weird to go back and see themes, metaphors, etc. that weren't conscious at the time of writing emerge in your work? It's actually one of my favorite things ever! I have a friend who is my "writing buddy" (writes in totally different style & genre) who is really good at pointing out this kind of thing when he crits for me. Mostly it's cool, but sometimes I feel like I've been walking around in my underwear without realizing it. You weren't supposed to see THAT! Hell, I wasn't supposed to see that! Writing rocks.

Cornelia Read said...

10 Zillion copies--wouldn't THAT be neato-jeato!! Thank you for the blog plug, my sweetie!!! I want to rub your kittens for luck.....

Brett Battles said...

Some of you, no doubt, are cursing at me because you’re struggling with book 2 on a deadline.

Damn you, Sandra Ruttan! Damn you!

...cute kittens...

Candi said...

Hi, Sandra- I started reading your blog during your disagreement with Steve Brewer over blogs on DorothyL. I like Steve and his books, but I wanted to get a complete idea of the other side of the discussion as well. I enjoyed your blog so I've been checking in occasionally and just saw your kitten pictures. I have 2 kittens that look exactly like your tigers. They are the same age and their eyes are just opening. There is an adorable third kitten who is solid white with one tiny bit of gray.
Anyway- I enjoy your blog and your website and I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yep, Cornelia - you and I will both sell in the tens. You the ten zillions. Me, well 10.

Brett, there's a long list of people who've been waiting to say that to me. They all love you now!

Candi, hi and welcome! I appreciate your comments (Really, I didn't want to pick a fight with Steve Brewer - I swear! That's why I never named him at first.) and that you didn't jump to conclusions. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and that you drop by. It's hard not to get all gushy over the kittens. The ones you describe sound beautiful.

You can see the rest of my babies here:

Buttons and Skittles are the proud parents.

annefrasier said...

that top kitten pic is so campy!
i love it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

That's Stuart and Russel wriggling on their backs, btw.

Li'l Rebus looks like a black bear, he's so cute. They're all soooo cute.

James Goodman said...

Hey, Sandra Thanks for the link, but sadly I failed to deliver today. The day job took its toil on me after my long absence. :( Fear not...I'll be back to document the dumber than dumb next week.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Just like a man to get you all excited and then go to work.

Seriously, you're entitled to a few days getting back on track after holidays, and I'll still look forward to next week's post.

Erich Haught said...

I want death by kittens. It's the only way to die gracefully.

JamesO said...

I get my ideas from the idea shop...

Oh, no. Hang on. I've done that one already.

Not sure about death by kittens - it sounds horribly 80's. I wouldn't mind coming back as a kitten though. Twenty three hours a day asleep, the one hour of being kind to small animals. Sounds like my kind of life.

Lisa Hunter said...

With so many ideas, have you ever thought of pitching Movie of the Week ideas to CBC? Seriously. If you know any screenwriters looking for gigs, you should think of collaborating on one. The kind of stories you're coming up with are exactly right for TV.

(No offense meant if you don't like/watch TV.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Erich and James, I'm not sure about death by kittens. Sounds like a cozy mystery gone horridly wrong...

Lisa, no offense taken. I've never tried a screenplay, but it might be an interesting idea.

Linda L. Richards said...

When people ask where I get my ideas, I like to blatantly borrow from Harlan Ellison: I say I buy them from an old guy in Schenectady. (I think he said there was an idea service there and he paid them 25 bucks a week to cough up new ideas. Or something.)

Like you, Sandra, I never find myself at a loss for ideas. (They're everywhere! They're everywhere!) The trick is in tricking yourself into spending the time and focus of heart necessary to making the ideas into a book. (Poof! You're a book.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, focus is a trick! Especially for short stories.

Lisa I suspect your other comment went astray... But she wasn't a child. A teenager, but 16,17 age. Not that this makes it alright, but it wasn't a child.

Shame, because some of the themes that run through the book - redemption, forgiveness, guilt - are real issues that everyone faces on some level.

Amra Pajalic said...

I remember when I started my writing course and couldn't think of one idea for a short story. Then once I had one it was like a dam that sprang a leak and didn't stop.

At the moment I'm working through my Bosnian stories and my next few novels are already set. My short stories are detours about things that bug me.

The one overarching thing is my own feelings and the need to purge them in fiction. At the moment I've been going through a serious rage period and getting lots of ideas for crime fiction. Best way to purge those evil thoughts, I hope.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes Amra, that's why crime writers are so well-adjusted.

We kill on paper instead of literally.

Though some days, it's pretty tempting!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

i'll just pray that Kev stays safe!

The kittens melt my heart...I love the little fur! Did you see the kitten in my post can play with it with the toy or food that' under 'more'....or if you put your pointer on it and click it will jumb out of the basket......Dumb things intrigue me!

Anonymous said...

Nice site!
[url=]My homepage[/url] | [url=]Cool site[/url]

Anonymous said...

Nice site!
[url=]My homepage[/url] | [url=]Cool site[/url]

Anonymous said...

Good design!
My homepage | Please visit

Anonymous said...

Well done! |