Recycling Story Ideas




As authors, our stories are our assets. They are what brings in money, in the shape of published books that readers can buy.

Now, there are many ways to take a single „book“ and use it wisely, by selling limited licenses and being very careful about the rights listed in contracts. If you want to look into that, read Kris Rusch’s series on Estate Planning. She has many, many awesome tips on that.

Today, however, I want to talk about something else.

Recycling story ideas.

I first heard about this while chatting with a friend. She mentioned one of her author friends who takes a story and turns it into a full novel. Then she creates a short story, a love story and a zombie story, all of them from the same old idea. And sells them all to different markets. (These are not her examples, but you get the gist.)

Now, as you may know I’m in the process of branching out into another pen name that will publish explicit Romance stories. Yep, the smutty stuff. For reasons. Don’t judge.

And it’s also NaNo, and aside from another story (which is Hannah territory) I started writing a dragon shifter story that was *supposed* to be a Joanna tale. With the real stuff, hot dragon guy et cetera.

Except when this hot dragon guy started out doing the invesitation that brought him close to my heroine, it dragged out and became quite a focus, with the love stoy relegated to subplot. That’s okay, it’s fine for Hannah to create a fantasy adventure. And so I punted it over to her. That’s what you get when the heroine isn’t particularly fond of men. *sigh*

It just wasn’t what I had planned.

And then I figured out what the villain wants, and it’s very sly and underhanded, and it catapulted the story right back into Joanna territory: breeding his own army of dragon shifters, under his control from childhood and brainwashed into complete devotion to the villain. His way to power. His way to create a small empire of his own.

Writing went well for a while, but my mind was shocked. And then it remembered that conversation with my writing friend and her prolific author friend…

It seems that I’m raising Siamese twins during this NaNo season:

One story, two versions.

In the Hannah version, the villain has captured young dragon shifters and is in the process of breaking them when my hero arrives to foil his plans. Plain fantasy dragon adventure with a nice little love story as subplot.

The Joanna version will use the original villain plan, and offers many opportunities for hot stuff, since my hero will interview several women after getting nowhere with the men, and then will eventually be captured and used… before escaping and turning the tables on the villain, of course. With a love subplot, as well, that’ll usher in the happy ever after in the end.

Will this work?

Thing is, I believe the stories will be different enough to appeal to different readers, but they will use bascially the same idea and plot. The characters will get different names, and a different description, the action will be quite different, and yet… it’s the same basic story.

And there’s a part of me that tells me that’s cheating! It’s cheating!

It’s cheating my readers!

But is it, really?

I’m creating the two pen names precisely because I believe there will be two different audiences. The Hannah fans have told me repeatedly they are not fond of explicit scenes and that they won’t buy books with them. Which is fine – I’m very glad for the clarity! I love you all!

Which leaves the future Joanna fans who – I hope! – will love the hot stuff inside stories with a reasonable plot and adventure. Who don’t particularly care if it’s contemporary, SF or fantasy, because they want believable characters and an enjoyable story, plus the tantalizing scenes.

I believe there will be some overlap in the audiences. In fact,  I hope for it, because that’ll help Joanna become known. But the truth is, that overlap will likely be small.

And by „recycling“ a story idea and adapting it to the different audiences, I make my life easier. They each get a story they enjoy, and I can publish one faster. Maybe that is win-win, after all.

And the truth is, this will be a rare thing. Most of my stories are not easily adaptable to the other pen name. Usually, it’s quite clear what I’m writing and whose story it is.

And you know what? I blame NaNoWriMo!

NaNo made me write under pressure every evening, made me go with spontaneous ideas; and Hannah and Joanna merged in the rush. Kind of.

That’s my version, and I’ll stick to it. So there.

Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you and whether you believe this is a good idea or a reader rip-off.


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Graphic Steps

I need to brag a little. Because I created something I’m quite proud of. And it wasn’t easy.

Well, it wasn’t really hard, either, just a bit complicated.

You see, I wanted to create an add for „Dorelle’s Journey“. My little book needs a bit of love, and I wanted something nice to post on social media. Something I can reuse, rather than a specific release or sale ad.

Here are the steps:

1. Background

I created the background with PicMonkey. That’s because I love their filters and extras, even the free ones. I made it 800×800 because that should work with most social media.

(Yes, I know, I probably should create pics in perfect size because resizing always introduces imperfections, but … I’m really not good with graphics. And I’m perfectionist. Not a good combo!)

I picked a color from the book cover, or as close as I could make it, and then played with the water filter of PicMonkey.

Here’s the result:



I saved it as such, and in a smaller version especially for FB so I could play with it. I’m trying to save every stage, giving me more options.

2. Cover

Then I took my cover image and added it to the background. Nothing special here, just resizing the file to fit. I may play with the sizes, but I really don’t want the cover to totally dominate the entire pic. It should be big enough for people to recognize it when they see it on Amazon – and big enough so they can read the title!

I did this in Fireworks, which is a very old Macromedia graphics program. I use it because somehow, it works best for my intuitive approach to computer work. Yes, it’s severely outdated. I don’t care. I *own* it.

So here are background and cover together:

Background and cover

Background and cover

Again, I saved it in this stage, because I know I’ll want to create different versions with different text in it. (The original is bigger than shown here.)

3. Text (Fireworks)

This step proved to be difficult. I added the text in my old, faithful Fireworks, and no matter what I did, it came out horribly pixely. Which I can’t explain since text is part of the vector stuff even Fireworks does. It may have happened because it didn’t like working with a jpg as background image…

Here’s a result. Yes, I’m showing it to you because it’s part of the process. (*shudder*)

Pixely text on background with cover

First try with added text.

The result of exporting it to jpg was gruesome. Notice the white line around the cover? And the pixels on the text? The distortion around the text? Yeah. Imagine that in full size on FB. Dreadful.

Did I mention I’m a perfectionist?

I gave up on that.

4. Text (GIMP)

Today, I felt relaxed enough for another go at GIMP. It’s a cool program, free, open-source and originally Linux based. Its name means „GNU Image Manipulation Program“, after all.

Loading the background image with the cover was easy peasy. Clicking on the text tool and adding the first paragraph, ditto. Then I tried to move the text field.


I’m used to a tool where you can grab an element and just drag it around in your image. I knew GIMP should have something like it. And yeah, it does. But every time I tried to grab the text and pull it around, GIMP moved my background instead.

I learned, eventually. And I did so without screaming, hitting my desk or gnashing my teeth. (*shoulderpats*) Of course, before I figured that out, I moved the borders of the text element for repositioning. Gah.

And GIMP is a bit clunky (might be my old version) when it comes to choosing a font. Basically, you have to know what you have and want, and type the name of the font into the tool box. No drop down menu. So I chose Bauhaus – which is a font I love, but it’s not necessarily suited for the pic. And there still is some distortion around the text. But it’s what I have for now. And I can live with it.

Without further ado, here’s the final version:

Final version

Final version (for now!)

Your Turn:

Thanks for reading! This one has been long.

I’ll definitely play some more with the text, both content and format. But I’d be grateful for comments, suggestions, and even tricks for handling GIMP. Because this is just the start.

So please comment.

Thank you.

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Subconscious Plotting



So yesterday, I was thinking about the big, bad showdown for the last book in The Cloud Lands Saga series. When I do that for any fight, I start seeing scenes in my mind, a bit like a private movie.

And then I look for plot holes.

Are the characters being logical? Or are they acting under stress and do illogical things, but it’s still realistic? I often freeze the frame to think of alternatives.

And this time, I saw Ferren ducking under a roof overhang because a dragon was hovering above him. So far so good. The dragon won’t flame the thatch roof, because he is protecting the village, not attacking it. So Ferren is safe for the moment to continue with his nefarious plan.

All right.

But Ferren is an aggressive, ruthless character with a terrible grudge. He’s there to kill the person he hates with insane intensity.

Would he just hide from a dragon?

Not really. As long as he has the time to do something about that dragon pointing him out, he will.

And so he did. Quickly and decisively.

Scene complete.

And the amazing beauty of this visual editing I did of that scene is that it solved another plot problem quite handsomly. I only realized that later in the day when thinking about the larger plot of the story.

The injured dragon won’t be able to fly back to the Western Kingdom until he heals. And that suits me very, very well. (Mwuahahahaha.)

I love my writing brain. And I love it when a plan comes together.

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Lost in transition

There is one place in my life where thinking about my stories is absolutely easy and fun.

Unfortunately, it’s not a place where I can actually write.

Because that place is curled up in bed.

When I get warm and comfy, where nothing else impinges – then my mind is free to fly to my story worlds and interact with my characters.

Problem is getting those thoughts, dialogues and vision into my computer file.

So much lost in transition.

So how do you do it?

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Feeling the Pain



I haven’t been blogging lately. I just couldn’t.

It started with the massacre in Orlando. I made the mistake of looking at the faces of those killed. Boy, was that a bad idea. I probably could have loved each of them. They were killed by hate.

Baghdad. About 300 dead. Normal people. Shoppers. In the wrong place at the wrong time. In the wrong country. In the wrong story. Victims of hate.

It continued with the young man bleeding to death after being shot in his car. One too many. One that for some reason really hit me hard. This was a good guy. A really good guy. A guy many, many kids adored. And dead just like that. And yes, because someone was afraid of people with his color of skin. Someone had listened to the hate.

Then someone killing policemen. Targetting them at a protest, where people showed up to celebrate and honor life. More hate, and violence begetting violence.

I crawled away from the news. And I played a game, quite obsessively, to stop my mind from working, my heart from feeling.

But the world kept getting more bloody.

Nice. (Nizza, as we call it.) 80+ dead. Killed while celebrating a national day. Because someone hated too much, and chose a primitive, gruesome way to express the hate.

Coup in Turkey. Almost 300 dead. And the president“cleansing“ not just the military, but the universites, courts and press, even parliament. Looks like a dictatorship in making, with the attempted coup as a convenient reason. Driven by greed, fear and hate of all who are on the „wrong side“.

Hate rising all over the world. Party heads spewing ever more vicious ideas of violence to counter violence. As if that ever worked.

And I wonder what will happen next. Hate has been unleashed, on purpose and quite deliberately. And at the moment, all attempts to ease it, to lance it, and let it bleed away, are in vain.

I’m being compelled not to feel – and compelled to feel.

Because someone has to witness all that pain, all those tears, all the heartache. Someone need to call out the hate, and spread love.

I did that for three weeks. And I’m exhausted.

I may have to become a cynical recluse. And write Romance to get my mind to see something entirely different. I’m sure there will be plenty of readers who also just want to numb their pain, and feel safe with a story, at least. Here is love that doesn’t fail. Love that overcomes even hate…

It’s a sad world right now. Too sad for sad stories.

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The Power of a Plotting Party

Plotting Party

Plotting Party

Yesterday, I had a plotting party with an author friend. And it was great fun.

And to be honest, it was also very, very useful.

It is funny how our brain can go into overdrive when we talk about something. New ideas suddenly sprout where there was an empty desert before. And that’s simply because someone else is willing to listen, and add some thoughts on their own, creating mental fireworks.

I discovered a lot more about my dragon world that way. For example, only men are allowed on fishing boats. But the women are very capable divers and develop that useful skill as girls. In fact… Dorelle has that skill.

And my plotting buddy went home with many ideas about her mystery short story. I was surprised how many ideas surfaced about a genre I don’t usually write in.

Maybe that’s because stories are stories, and they all need twists, believability and action.

What’s your best way of plotting?

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The Power of Stories over Simple Facts



I was just reading about a study that shows children learn better from stories than facts.


There is a reason why story-telling has been the preferred teaching method for millenia in our species.

You see, our brain has what is called „mirror neurons“. They have only one function: They recreate what we see someone else do and feel, so we can feel it ourselves. To a degree, of course.

And even though I’m not sure it has ever been tested, I believe those mirror neurons do that very same thing when we read a story. They don’t do that when we learn a plain old fact since there is nothing to recreate.

And if those stories are fantastic and out of this world – even better! They are much more stimulating than a story that’s about boring, every day experiences.

So I count myself lucky (or maybe perceptive?) that I prefer fantasy and SF as genres for reading and writing. After all, this is where you can get stuff that’s out of this world!

And since I’m still a little bored, I’m looking for recommendations: What’s your favorite fantasy or SF story?

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One Entrance to Creativity



I’m bored.

I have to spend another hour before I can actually go somewhere and do something else. And I have nothing to do.

There is an emptiness in my life that screams at me to do something, anything.

Anything is better than being bored.

Is it?

Because boredom is one entrance to creativity.

Nature ahorrs a vaccuum. Aristotle said that, thousands of years ago.

I believe that the mind is similar. It can’t stand doing nothing. That’s why meditation is so hard.

And if I allow boredom, if I allow that drone of nothing to enter my mind long enough…

… my mind fills the vaccum.

Usually with stories. With „what if?“

So now I’ll lean back, close my eyes and allow boredom.

Allowing stories to grow.

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Thoughts on Violence



Violence is a part of nature. Animals kill animals to eat them. They fight, too, for dominance or the right to mate.

Chimpanzees even go to war. It’s been documented that the young males sometimes hunt all members of another group and kill them without mercy. Males, females, youngsters, babies.

They are our close relatives. We are part of nature, and so violence is part of our nature.

Just look at the many, many wars in history. They started early, probably in the Late Stone Age. That’s when we get the first houses – and the first fortifications. Swords are prominent Bronze Age finds. And swords are not hunting weapons.

It was a celebrated aspect of civilization that violence was starting to be regulated.

Rules for wars were established (although they aren’t always followed even now in the  21st century).

Duells became illegal. Public fights were turned into sports events. Boxing, Wrestling, Multiple Martial Arts, even Football are all ways of channeling violence away from the streets and into arenas. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I read a headline about German men no longer knowing how to brawl. (Not true, btw.)

And yet, in popular culture, violence is still the solution to most problems.

When I watched „Avatar“, I was fascinated by the world and by the amazing ideas that went into creating it. The whole concept of „we are one“, of a meeting of consciousnesses was exciting. But in the end, the movie turned to a well-established trope to solve the conflict between the two major parties: a big, violent showdown involving multiple casualties, including the big bad guy. It felt inexplicably American: Violence as the solution to conflict.

I was deeply disappointed because that was in major dissonance with the peaceful and inclusive nature of Pandora. In fact, an intelligent guerilla tactic involving all of nature would have been much more exciting – to me. I suppose the majority of moviegoers never wasted a thought on that.

Now, in American cultural history, we can see a lot of stories involving the man who takes what he wants – land, gold, fur, often by overcoming obstacles and by using violence. Good and bad men. Men who defends their own with violence. And usually that violence means guns. The trope of the gun-slinging conqueror of the wild has shaped American culture like little else. We can still see it in the fact that most trophy-hunters in this world are American.

And this trope takes a huge toll on the American society in this modern century.

I just need to take a detour for a moment.

You see, Europe regulated violence early on and quite clearly, including guns.

In fact, there is a passage in the German constitution about the state being the only institution allowed any violence (a „monopoly of force“, it is called), in the shape of the police, jurisdiction and military. This might be shocking to read, and of course, it doesn’t prevent brawling, knife fights and the occasional victim of gun shots. However, it sets very clear boundaries.

Guns are regulated here. People who want to own one need a reason (hunter, sportsman), have to apply for a license and are registered, same as the guns. There are clear requirements for gun storage and transport which are enforced. This is part of ensuring that violent force against humans is only used by the state, and that only in emergencies and prescribed circumstances. (There is no death penalty in Europe, either.)

The US have no similar concept of regulating violence, in fact, I would assume many of my American friends would be horrified by that German passage, as well as our gun laws. But I want to remind you that a fairly peaceful movement toppled one German state a few decades ago, after all. Germans didn’t need guns to do so. We can do it again, if needed.

But in the US we can see what happens when guns as a way of expressing violence are not regulated. When they serve as the main means for „protection“ and „self-defense“. When they are everywhere, so that even kids can get to them. When they can be carried openly or concealed. When people can take the right to violence into their own hands. Vigilante justice is still very much an accepted concept, and even more so in popular culture.

There is a simple problem with that: People feel entitled to kill other people.

People feel entitled to kill an intruder. A burglar. Or someone just walking on their grounds. Or someone they think is a robber. Or – and this is where it gets really dangerous – someone who hurt them.

Interviews with criminals often reveal that they felt they were forced to their actions, and that they were justified in what they did. Because someone hurt them first.

An eye for an eye. You hurt me, I hurt you.

Or kill you.

And it’s so easy, because with a gun, all you have to do is pull the trigger. A tiny weight, shifted with a twitch of a finger. I know how it feels. I used to shoot for sports.

But if you’re consumed with rightious anger, the need for revenge, hate or even some kinds of mental illness, and are convinced it is okay to violently invoke justice on your own – it’s easy to shoot people. Because they have become the enemy and thus no longer human.

It’s so easy to go for the epic showdown celebrated in so many movies and stories.

It’s so easy to feel like the hero in a movie.

And it leaves people dead.

Maybe it is time to rethink our take on violence.

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The Fabric on our Skins



I don’t know about you, but my skin is quite sensitive. It matters what I wear. In fact, my clothes have to be soft. I can’t stand anything itchy or scratchy.

Nope, I cannot wear wool.

I would have been so lost in the Middle Ages.

It’s funny how clothes either get no description in Fantasy, or they get overdescribed. I’m sure you’ve read those pages and pages about the amazing dresses the queens wear. (I tend to skip those, though.)

I sometimes wonder if authors actually know how those fabrics were made and where they come from.

Wool, no problem. Everyone knows that. It comes from sheep, maybe goats, maybe rabbits. Easy peasy. But to turn wool into a shirt? Not so easy. And that stuff is practically always scratchy. Ugh.

Silk? Well, you need to know about silkworms and the mulberry tree, their only food source. And how to unravel those silk cocoons. That’s why it was so expensive.

Cotton? Not available in the European Middle Ages. (Cotton only grew in the Americas.)

Linnen? That’s flax, and it’s quite a chore to prepare it. It also often contains little wooden pieces of the flax stem – quite itchy, actually.

Jute – ever heard of that? It grows in warm and wet climates, and was used to make burlap sacks. Very rough… although treated well, it can be nice.

And then you need to spin and weave those materials to turn them into fabric.  Then you have to cut the fabric and sew it into clothes. Or knit or crotchet what you want to wear.

And we’re not even talking about color yet.

There is a reason clothes were really expensive in the Middle Ages. And why people generally only had two or three shirts max. New clothes were an absolute luxury.

How’s that for adding some real-life touches to your stories?

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