S.G. Browne

Slushpile of the Mind

One of the questions I and other writers are often asked is:

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas are funny things. Sometimes they’re as prevalent as Starbucks and other times, they’re as hard to find as good customer service. You can sit in front of your computer for hours and try to come up with a good one without any luck and then have one pop into your head without any warning while you’re standing in line at Safeway.

Or you can sit down to write an idea for a short story in your journal, this great idea that just came to you out of nowhere, one of the best ideas you’ve ever had, only to discover that the original idea you had isn’t nearly as brilliant as what you’d first thought. But while writing down this idea that sounded better in your head than it does on paper, you stumble upon another idea with far more promise, something that doesn’t take shape for another year. Which is how Fated was conceived.

The original idea involved some generic supernatural event that happened to some generic normal guy. I have no idea where I was going with it. But not wanting to give up on whatever it was that prompted me to write down the idea in the first place, I kept journaling, throwing out a lot of “maybe this” and “maybe thats” until I stumbled upon the idea that this character lives in Manhattan and has first hand knowledge about certain events because he’s Fate.

At the time, I didn’t pursue the idea any further than that. But the following July, while sitting on a bench at a shopping mall, watching people walk past and wondering what their futures held for them, I wrote what would eventually become the opening chapter to Fated.

In addition to shopping malls, I’ve had ideas come to me from random conversations, song lyrics, dreams, standing in line at an ice cream parlor, sitting in front of an annoying little girl on an airplane, TV commercials, a Jack the Ripper tour, a newspaper article, an hourglass in an antique store, a trip to a place called Lower Slaughter in England, Greek mythology, a painting by René Magritte, a moment standing by the bank of the Stanislaus River, staring at a poster from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, sitting on a bench in New York’s Central Park, and getting stuck sixty miles south of the Mexican border with a broken water pump.

All of the moments and ideas above led to short stories or novels that I’ve written. As for the idea behind Breathers, that came from my 2001 short story “A Zombie’s Lament,” which you can find in the John Skipp anthology Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead. While I can’t point to any single moment of inspiration for “A Zombie’s Lament,” I just wanted to write a story about zombies that I hadn’t read before. And putting myself inside the head of the zombie seemed like the way to do it.

In the next couple of days, I’ll post answers from a handful of other authors as to how and where they get their ideas, so check back for Slushpile of the Mind, Part II.

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Filed under: The Writing Life — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 9:49 am

O is for One, Of, and Odyssey

O. I like the letter O.

The whole circular nature of things. Every end a new beginning. That sort of nonsense. But when I first sat down to figure out my favorite books that start with the letter O, I could only think of my top three, plus a couple I never read. Then I actually started focusing (which means I cheated and searched for titles on the Internet) and realized I’d read a lot more for this entry than I’d thought.

Some of the titles that didn’t make the list include Oliver Twist (Dickens), Odd Thomas (Koontz), Out of Sight (Leonard), The Outsiders (Hinton), and The Old Man and the Sea. Which should come as no surprise, considering my lack of enthusiasm for Hemingway. And since he’s already made my Classic Literature Razzies list once for A Farewell to Arms, I figured I’d let him slide this time.

Some of titles I’ve never read include On the Road (Kerouac) and One Hundred Years of Solitude (Márquez). I keep thinking I should eventually get around to them, but I’d rather watch Arrested Development on Netflix.

The Big O:
The Odyssey, Homer
I love Greek mythology and this epic poem has it all. Cyclops, Syclla, Charybdis, Sirens, a witch-goddess, sacred cows, a bunch of horny Suitors, a determined hero, death, adventure, treachery, love, betrayal, and a bunch of meddling, bickering gods screwing around with everyone’s fates while enjoying the perks of their Mount Olympus HOA.

Two for the Money:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
I will admit that the film version has filtered its way into my memories (since I read Cuckoo’s Nest in high school), but the book is populated with memorable characters, including the rebellious McMurphy, the controlling Nurse Ratched, and the silent Chief, through whose eyes we experience the book’s narrative. While the film version is a fairly solid adaptation and Nicholson steals the show, the novel is worth the read.

Three’s Company:
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
While technically a novella written as a play, this is the second of Steinbeck’s Dustbowl trilogy (sandwiched between In Dubious Battle and The Grapes of Wrath). Having never read Cannery Row or East of Eden, I admittedly have a smaller pool to choose from, but this is my favorite Steinbeck novel. Painful and tender and tragic, the themes of loneliness resonate more than 70 years after the book’s publication. (Odd Trivia – Apparently, an early draft of the novel was eaten by his dog.)

Favorite Guilty Pleasure:
The Other Side of Midnight, Sidney Sheldon
Not my favorite guilty pleasure of all time (that still goes to Waterworld), but I read several Sidney Sheldon novels in high school (including Bloodline and If Tomorrow Comes), and this was my favorite of the three.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 8:44 pm

The Undead That Saved Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the mall,
All the zombies were munching on some guy named Paul…

I’m writing the introduction to a holiday themed zombie anthology called The Undead That Saved Christmas. It’s a charity anthology to help the foster kids at the Hugs Foster Family Agency, serving foster children San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties in southern California.

All proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go to the agency to help them give their foster children gifts this holiday season.

If you’re interested in learning more about the anthology, submitting a story, purchasing a copy, or buying a 3″ x 5″ book cover sticker, just click on the title or cover image or click right HERE.

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Filed under: Zombies — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 3:58 pm