Author Archives: rjhore

That Mysterious Place Where Writer’s Ideas Flow From (At least mine!)

Readers (and other writers) have been known to ask where the ideas come from. In my case, they can come from almost anywhere. Using what I have published so far as examples, here are samples of the sources of some of my muse and my imaginative worlds.

The Dark Lady. I looked up at the TV and caught a glimpse of an actress’s face. I thought, she could play the part of an evil queen with that look. My mind then wandered off to, I wonder how evil queens get their reputation, followed by, how would I write that story? The plot came from there, although I admit that the mediaeval fantasy novel subsequently became more inspired by the life of the young Queen Elizabeth the First rather than the evil witch out of Oz.

Housetrap. I wanted a change from writing swords and magic and decided to venture into the fantasy detective genre. I thought it might be amusing to take an established mystery or thriller title, mangle it, and create a plot out of the wreckage. The longest running murder mystery play is The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. I decided mine would be The Housetrap. When I started I had a detective and a title. All I had to do was figure out what a Housetrap was. The result was the first in the series of novellas under The Housetrap Chronicles. Sort of a Sam Spade meets every fantastic character or creature you can dream up.

Knight’s Bridge. I go for a walk almost every morning before breakfast, usually with my mind set in neutral, sometimes day-dreaming. Somewhere I came up with a scene of a jaded knight fleeing a lost battle, nothing more. This became a short story as told by the knight. When I was finished I decided I was curious as to what might have happened next. The result was a novella-length piece in four parts as told through the eyes of four different characters.

The Queen’s Pawn. Another case of where my day-dreaming conjured up a single scene, a young man fleeing a burning city. I don’t remember what triggered it. I may have just watched the movie Troy, or read a book around the life of Helen. In any case, I had the opening, and one character. Once I started to write the novel, the plot and other characters came to life quickly. My hero had to rescue the queen and her spoiled daughter, and get them to safety against overwhelming odds and assorted villains. From that birthing, the medieval-style fantasy adventure began.

Dial M for Mudder. I returned to my fantasy detective. In Housetrap I opened with a search for a missing boyfriend, in Mudder I paid homage to the traditional detective story by having a missing statue, then running off and messing up the tale.

House on Hollow Hill. Back to the Housetrap Chronicles again, this time I decided to do a take- off on a traditional mystery setting, the big house in the country filled with strangers, theme.

Hounds of Basalt Ville. You don’t need an encyclopedia to figure out where I mashed up this title from. The novella comes out in November 2013. Again, following the format I have used in others of the Housetrap Chronicles, for me it is a simple matter of coming up with the title, then building a plot around that. Perhaps a bit backwards when compared to the normal method of, write the story and then add a title that fits, but it works well for me.

A final, as yet unpublished example of the birth of a novel. I read a brief newspaper article commenting on how the Europeans mistreated the aboriginal population. This triggered the thought, I wonder what would have happened if the shoe had been on the other foot and the North Americans discovered Europe first, and arrived with an advantage. That set me off on…how would I go about writing that? I’ve finished this adventure into the What If of Alternative History and am still mucking about with the beast of a manuscrpt.

I have no shortage of ideas. When something I find interesting forces its way into my brain I will often jot down a sentence or two and file it away for future references. I doubt I will ever find the time to write all the stories lounging there. Between my mental slush pile, and some of my earlier, and in bad need of re-writing, efforts, I will never find enough hours in the day to visit all my imaginary worlds.

Where do you find the Worlds of your Imagination?


The Dark Lady – Feb 2012
Housetrap – Dec 2012
Knight’s Bridge – Mar 2013
The Queen’s Pawn – Apr 2013
Dial M for Mudder – July 2013
House on Hollow Hill – Sept 2013
Hounds of Basalt Ville – Nov 2013


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Sequels and Series- What Kinds of Problems Might They Cause You?

When I wrote my first published novel, The Dark Lady, I gave no thought to what happens next in the story. I had reached, what seemed to me, to be a satisfactory conclusion. It was only after having several readers asked me when the sequel was coming out, did I give the matter any serious consideration.

One of the many rules of writing is: “Know your character’s backstory” even though you might never use it in your short story or novel. What is their favorite flavor of ice cream? Who were their parents? The idea is, the better you know where they came from, the better you can describe how they would react in a given situation. It adds depth to the tale. I can add another rule you might not be so familiar with. I re-discovered something when I sat down to write the sequel. (Which turned into two volumes, not one.) You must keep detailed notes. I knew this in the back of my mind, and thought I had done a pretty good job of writing down details, names, places, etc., of the characters who would now suddenly re-appear in the sequel. I still had to go back and refer to the original book, correct several errors such as misspelling minor character’s names.

Even if you don’t plan on writing a sequel, keep a separate file where you record all pertinent information about characters and settings. Have you ever changed a character’s eye color halfway through a story? I have. Have you ever changed the spelling of a protagonist’s name in mid-tale? I have. The moral, keep good, clear, easily accessible notes. I do now on every piece I write. This is especially important for those of us who write fantasy tales with exotic sounding character and place names that could potentially be spelled a hundred different ways!

With the sequels to The Dark Lady, I had to plot out what might happen next, keep the threads and theme of the original, and then run with it more or less as a single, longer-running story. I also write a series of fantasy detective novellas, The Housetrap Chronicles. The process there is slightly different. Of course I still need copious notes, but now I have two choices. Do I simply extend the first story, or write separate tales for each novella? I chose to try and write each as a stand-alone that the reader could pick up out of sequence and still follow along. Several of the characters and settings may re-appear, but that is not a problem if you can introduce them in such a manner as to not keep repeating who they are in long boring detail/

Looking back, when I have finished a manuscript for a novel now, I often jot down a few notes as to what might happen next to the characters, assuming they survived. Even just a line on who might get married, who might cause future problems, whether they might wander, will give you a head start if you decide a sequel or follow-up is warranted.

Consistency is the key to extending your story. How you keep track of things is up to you. Do whatever works best for you, whether it is an electronic file, several paper notebooks, or scribbles on napkins.

The last hint I want to leave you with is: Don’t hesitate to sketch out a map or diagram of your mythical land, or enchanted castle. I drew a map for The Dark Lady simply to allow me to keep directions and neighboring countries straight. It later appeared, cleaned up a bit, as a free download on my website along with a character bio I had originally created to help keep me on the straight and narrow. Maps, building plans, and bios can prove invaluable to the writer trying to keep the threads of a story straight.

Good luck with your writing, and most important of all, keep at it!


Medieval-style fantasies: The Housetrap Chronicles:
The Dark Lady Housetrap
Knight’s Bridge Dial M for Mudder
The Queen’s Pawn House on Hollow Hill

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Some Lighter Fare

I was supposed to post on July 13th, had everything ready to go because I knew I would be away …and forgot to push the magic button….


I am prepared to be suitably drawn and quartered etc…


My next novella in the Housetrap Chronicles series titled House on Hollow Hill, comes out September 2013. It is the third tale to be published so far in a series about a private eye, Randolf C. Aloysius set in a fantasy world where just about anything goes. My normal format is to take the title of a familiar mystery or thriller, mash it up, and create a plot around it. In this case Randy, and his trusty girl Friday, aka Bertha Wildwater, find themselves pretending to be another couple so they can crash a weekend dinner-party-type affair at a secluded mansion. As usual, chaos ensues. The scene below has to do with them trying to arrange transport to begin the journey. Existing and future Housetrap Chronicles tales so far are:

Housetrap – Dec 2012

Dial M for Mudder – July 2013

House on Hollow Hill – Sept 2013

Hounds of Basalt Ville – Nov 2013

These, plus my medieval-style fantasy novels, are available through

Hope you enjoy!


House on Hollow Hill

 Page 7, line 7 etc.

The Imp looked as though he would like to send us out the back door into the alley where we’d probably be mugged, stared Bertha in the eye, twitched his horns and muttered, “The company is not responsible for anything the employees say. Unless of course it is written in triplicate and signed off by the management and authorized by the Committee of Inter-City Travel and Touring.”

I grabbed Bertha’s hand before she could start a riot and dragged her away from the counter.

“I wasn’t going to hurt him.”

“I saw your spell-casting finger start to twitch. If we don’t catch the correct flight we could be stranded here for days while they sort out jurisdiction.

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Setting vs World Building

There is a difference between creating a Setting, and creating your imaginary world, aka World Building. Both are important.

World building is the big picture. You create the entire background for your story, much of which you may never actually use within your manuscript. You, as the author, need to know the details of your world. You need to know the limits of magic in your lands, where food or trade comes from, have some idea of the forms of government and the religions that your characters may live under. The less familiar your world is to the reader, the more you need to know. You have to be consistent. Once you set the rules, you must abide by them, or explain why not. World building is the universe within which your story unfolds.

Setting is just a fragment of that world. It is the small picture. Unless you are writing a short story, or telling the tale within a very limited scope, you will probably have to describe several settings. One way to illustrate the difference between world building and setting is to look at a story most people are familiar with…the sinking of the Titanic. If you begin your story in England or Ireland, perhaps even with the building of the ship, then travel across the Atlantic, perhaps to be rescued and end up in New York or Halifax, the world you are building is made up of all of those elements. A setting would be just one small piece or scene, such as the ship, or some action in the Grand Ballroom, or a romantic interlude in a drawing room.

While your world may just be a hazy part of the background of the tale as far as the reader is concerned, the setting can sometimes become almost like another character. The Titanic may be described in your story as a living entity, going through death-throes after the collision with the iceberg. Another example you may be familiar with is the old haunted house or the remote cabin in the woods. In a well-told tale, these settings can become as real, with feelings, as any of the characters who inhabit them.

The stronger you build your world, and the more time you take to create your settings, the greater impact your story will have. You, the author, are the stage manager behind the play your characters are putting on. While these elements should not dominate the plot, or turn your characters into cardboard cut-outs, they will enhance the enjoyment of what happens between the pages.

At least that is the way I see things.


The Dark Lady


Knight’s Bridge

The Queen’s Pawn

Dial M for Mudder

House on Hollow Hill

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Ideas are Not the Problem, at Least Not for Me!

I have heard of writers who have difficulty trying to come up with a topic or story-line, or who slam hard into a plot-point problem. They stare at their computer waiting for inspiration in the form of an already developed plot or a solution to strike from somewhere high above, like a bolt from Zeus.

My problem is that I have far too many plots and surplus scenes rattling around in my otherwise semi-vacant cranium.

Every newspaper headline, every conference I attend, every writer’s circle I sit in on, could form the basis of my next novel or short story.

I go for early morning walks. With my mind securely in neutral, plot ideas keep percolating through, solving problems with a current project, or more likely, adding new ideas, most of which I will never have the time to use. I sometimes discover by knowing the character in the tale I’m wrestling with, and what they might do, they can solve the plot issue all on their own.

Story ideas can come from the most unexpected places. For example, the novel The Dark Lady was born out of a brief scene on TV when the head and shoulders of an actress triggered the thought: She could play an evil queen! The novella the Knight’s Bridge came about because I thought up a scene (probably on a morning walk) of a warrior fleeing a lost battle. That became a short story that turned into a novella when I decided it needed expanding so that I would find out what happened next. When I wanted to do a fantasy detective series I looked for inspiration in old mystery/thriller titles, and decided to mangle them. The Mousetrap is an Agatha Christie that became my Housetrap. No relation to the original plot. I dreamed up the storyline based on the title I created. That mad scheme resulted in three more fantasy detective novellas coming out over the next few months all based on: come up with a strange title, then figure out a plot that might fit the title. For the novel, The Queen’s Pawn, I returned to the day-dreaming of an opening scene, in this case a youth fleeing in a burning city, and ran (galloped off?) with the plot from there.

Take the example of a Writer’s Conference or Comic Con that most of us have attended at one time or another. Such a setting could form the basis for: a murder mystery with irate jealous authors or fans.  How about a horror tale, with the monster just one of the many attendees in costume? Aliens could mingle quite unnoticed at some of these affairs. Even science fiction could be mined out of such a setting. What a place to try out the latest weird invention, or better yet, how about a futuristic Con? Don’t thank me, help yourself to the ideas!

The bottom line is, look around you. There are no shortage of plots or settings to be found just begging to be set down. I’m currently polishing up one that grabbed me by the throat out of an innocuous newspaper headline. Look forward to it being published some year soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to take a break and go back to finishing Murder in the Rouge Mort


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