Today I am very excited to welcome mystery author, Penny Warner to Book Chick City.

Penny Warner has published over 50 books, including over a dozen party books. How To Host A Killer Party, is the first in a new mystery series featuring event planner, Presley Parker, and set on Treasure Island and Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay Area. Book two, How To Crash A Killer Bash, is set at the de Young Museum, and book three, How To Survive A Killer Seance, is set at the Winchester Mystery House, features Sarah Winchester who returns to life…via 4-D technology, published March, 2011 (Penguin).
Her non-fiction book, The Official Nancy Drew Handbook, was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her middle-grade mystery, Code Busters Club: The Skeleton Key, comes out in August, 2011 (Egmont.)
When lightning strikes where do you get your ideas?
By Penny Warner
The question I’m asked most when I do book talks, besides “Where’s the restroom?” and “Do you know Sue Grafton?” is “Where do you get your ideas?” Most authors dread this question because it’s difficult to answer. Many simply say, “At the idea store,” which gets a laugh but sidesteps the question—again, because it’s difficult to answer. And yet, without an idea, I have no book to write.
I’ve compiled a list of ways to help the “lightning strike” when you’re in search of an idea—for your book, a scene, a character or a setting. If these don’t work, well, I’m outta ideas. I guess I’ll just stand outside in a thunderstorm with a lightning rod and hope I get lucky.
1. The newspaper. I get a lot of ideas by reading the newspaper for current events that make a story more interesting. But instead of using something from the headlines, I look for the quirky little stories that make me wonder: “How could that happen?” One of my favorite news items that I used in my Connor Westphal mystery series was about a woman who “woke up” on the embalming table! How could that happen? Either you’re dead, or you’re not. There should be no mistaking the difference. But it made a great way to start my story.
2. Other books. When I read a fun or fresh idea in another author’s mystery, I take the idea and see how it might fit with my story. That’s not plagiarism, it’s research. Ideas can’t be copyrighted. And my interpretation of the idea will be completely different from the original. For example, I could borrow the idea of a woman bounty hunter—only she’s a grandmother—who lives in a small town—in Texas—and discovers a body of a man sealed up in a wall—and is her ex-husband….
3. Brainstorming. I get together with my brilliant writers’ group and throw out a question, like “What shall I write next?” Then I let the other writers toss back answers—basically do the hard work for me—while I write everything down. Later I sift through the ideas, everything from “How about a teenage biker nun who special powers” to “How about a Mystery Cookbook where readers have to guess the ingredients.” There’s always a nugget of an idea somewhere in there.
4. Take a shower. Lots of authors get their best ideas in the shower. That’s probably because they can’t write any of them down or they’d get wet. I think it’s the psychology of it. When I sit down and try to come up with an idea, I end up with a grocery list—literally. But without a pen handy, I create some of my best work. I just wish I could remember it.
5. Borrow from Shakespeare or mythology. Those stories are timeless, and cover all the basic elements of good storytelling. Or, if you’re really stuck, try the Three Little Pigs.
a. Good Pig is happy
b. Bad Wolf comes along
c. Good Pig is in jeopardy
d. Good Pig gets in more jeopardy.
e. Things look really bleak for the Good Pig
f. Pig solves his problem.
g. Wolf is conquered and Pig saves his life and the lives of others.
h. Good Pig is happy again.
6. If lightning still won’t strike, remember the words of Robert B. Parker, who once said: “…there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Writing is hard, but if it’s your job, you do it. You wouldn’t accept it if you called a plumber and he said he couldn’t come out that day because he had plumber’s block…”
Thanks Penny!
You can find out more about Penny and her books here:
Penny is kindly giving away a lovely new copy of her latest release, “How to Survive a Killer Seance” – to enter complete instructions below.

This giveaway ends 6th October 2011 – GOOD LUCK!

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I’m trying out a new entry system for our giveaways – please contact us if you have any problems! :)


Carolyn created Book Chick City in July 2009 due to her love of books. A Brit chick obsessed with zombies, kick-arse chicks and sexy heroes. She's also seriously addicted to chocolate, shopping, and coffee. Her favourite genres are Urban Fantasy, Romance and Zombie Lit... Brrraaaaiiinnnnsss!


Birgit September 28, 2011 at 7:01 am

No, I haven't … though if I did it would be for the fun factor and not because I think something spooky might happen 😉 !


KimvA September 28, 2011 at 8:16 am

No never did en probably never will. I'm all for ghosts and things that go bump in the night and horror in books but real life no thank you. I'm quite the scary cat when it comes to real life books not so much.


nat September 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

Thanks for the chance. No I wouldn't ever go to a seance. Im a Scardy Cat!!


marybelle September 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

No, I would never attend a seance. Too scary for me thank you.



Mel September 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

I'd be sorely tempted to attend one. Mostly because 90% of the time I think they're faked and just good entertainment but 10% of me will be wondering if it was real or not! :-)


Stella (Ex Libris) September 28, 2011 at 8:48 am

Haven't been to one, but wouldn't mind attending a seance, it would be an interesting experience. And who knows, maybe my grandma will come and talk to me.

Thank you for the interesting guest post Penny. I agree, though I'm not a writer, I always have my most creative ideas in the shower 😀


Lia Oxanne September 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

No, I actually wouldn't :) still, it would be interesting


Hilde September 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

Oh gosh, no… I'm too easily scared for that. Besides, if anyone on the other side wants to contact me, I'm sure they'll find a way to do it anyway. 😉

PS. I can't believe I haven't heard of The Official Nancy Drew Handbook before now. Nancy has always been and will always be one of my heroes, so I will definitely be checking that book out.


Teressa Oliver September 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I would not attend one. This is against my faith beliefs, though reading fiction is just that

teressaoliver at gmail dot com


buddyt September 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

No I haven't but I have wanted to, just to see what it would be like.

Thanks for the giveaway.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com


janhvi September 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

No I have not and I probabaly never will.


justjanhvi at gmail dot com


Aleksandra September 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I don't know, maybe :) Depends if it sounds like fun & depends of my mood 😉

Thanks for the giveaway!


Anita Yancey September 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm

The idea of a seance sounds like fun, but I'm not sure I would actually attend one. Thanks!



Nikki Clark September 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I'd love to – I have so many questions! (I say that now, but how long I would last if and when someone 'appeared' is a different matter!!)



Temperance September 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Yes i would i think that would be kinda dinffernt and im up to that:)
I have never read any of your work but i am looking forward to reading some!
Thank you for the chance to win:)


Booklady September 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

This sounds like a wonderful series. I love your tips for getting lightning to strike. I'm an elementary librarian and sometimes we do a little writing into the library. The Three Little Pigs tip would work great with my students.

Beverly aka Booklady


Sapphyria September 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I wouldn't attend a seance….I'd hate to think what might follow me home. I don't mind watching them in television programs or reading about them in books, but no live ones for me. :)

saphsbookblog at gmail dot com


Dovile September 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

No, I wouldn't, because I don't believe in such things, and if I did I would be too scared to.


Scarlette September 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I would definately attend a seance! I love ghosties!


Julie S September 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I think I'd be too chicken to attend a seance. But reading about them in books is just fine :)


Jasmyn September 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I absolutely love the three little pigs idea and the thought that if writing is your job, you should just do it. The plumber analogy is perfect.


boeklover September 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Nice way of getting ideas!
I haven't read one of your books, but I'm interested!


Deranged Pegasus September 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Nope. Maybe someday though.


Chrizette September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I have to agree with "The Shower" part of you post. I get my best reviews written in my head when I shower . . . and like you said – can't write it down! Oh well . . .


Chrizette September 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

No – I cannot imagine that I would ever go to a seance. I am much too scared for that!


primrose September 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Oooh I'm always on for a why not?


melspur September 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I haven't ever had the chance to attend a seance but I don't think I'd attend even if the opportunity arose.


Meli ^^ September 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Would you ever attend a seance?

No, I don't believe in that kind of thing. I like stories and read about it, but I don't think it could happen in real life.

Thanks for the giveaway! 😀


Melissa September 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I'd love to go to a seance…not sure that I believe that anything would happen…and I wouldn't want to be trying to contact anyone I knew…but I think it would be fun!

♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf


Chrisbails September 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Penny is a new author for me and this series looks great. I love series of books and also am always looking for new books and authors to read. I could never right books, I have ideas but would never know where to take them. Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.


Books Glorious Books September 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Great post – the books look like great reads too. As for a seance I don't think I would…I'd probably be too scared!


Carol N Wong September 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Only if it was free. I am a cheapskate!



Alicia0605 September 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I would totally attend a seance. It sounds like a great time!


Barbara E. September 28, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I would attend a seance and would try to keep an open mind. If nothing else, I think it would be fun, and you never know, maybe it would work.


Denise Z September 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I have attended a seance and it was illuminating and frankly made me a believer, although I have been called a nutbunny from time to time:) Thank you for the fun today.


Julie September 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm

I'm a big scaredy cat! I'd be afraid that something would be let loose if you opened that door, so I would have to say no :)


jkrowyn September 29, 2011 at 12:26 am

I would def attend one. I'm a firm believer in the supernatural, and this is something that I would do if I had the chance. (I haven't yet) :) I really enjoyed the interview, thanks!! Artesia at comcast dot net


bookdout September 29, 2011 at 2:23 am

Hi Penny
When I was a teenager my friends and I held a seance and scared ourselves's not an experience I've ever been willing to repeat.

I'd love to win How To Hold a Killer Seance though – thanks for the giveaway

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out


Pam S (pams00) September 29, 2011 at 5:40 am

Thanks for sharing the fun post! LOL guess you never can tell when the tips ma come in handy.

I've never attended a seance and it's not likely that I will. My luck would be that Icould call up something nasty.

pams00 @


Aislynn September 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I haven't attended a seance before, but I've been tempted to!

Looks like an amazing read!!



mervih September 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I've never been to a seance but I got the opportunity, I'd like to go.

Your new series sounds very interesting!


Robi September 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I have never been to a seance. I think they are more interesting on books.



jennyy2 September 29, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Thanks for another great givaway!

And I've never been to a seance, but I also wouldn't go to one. I'm way to affraid for what you might 'meet'. I think it's more fun to read about it in books! 😉


Melliane September 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm

thanks for the giveaway ! I don't do it neither but I think It must be an interesting thing to do. Who knows ? Maybe one day !


LadyVampire2u September 30, 2011 at 10:01 am

No, I dont really want to be involved in a seance if I can help it. I worry about what gets called and unleashed during the ceremony. But I enjoy the books and movies about it where I can safely observe. Thanks for the giveaway.

LadyVampire2u AT gmail DOT com


Patricia's Particularity September 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I totally would attend one! So much fun!!!


Pabkins October 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Chuckles..plumbers block!


Pabkins October 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I think a seance would be fun! Definitely


Lisa Richards/alterlisa October 2, 2011 at 5:11 am

I'd go as long as I had some friends with me.


alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com


parakiss25 October 2, 2011 at 5:59 am

Thanks for the giveaway, I loved that little interview ^_^

I'd love to think I'd go for the curiousity, but I know me, and I'm a coward when it comes to ghosts. Id have an easier time watching an exorcism lol

faefever25 at hotmail dot com


rugbymum October 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I hope this is in the right place!

I wouldn't attend a seance as I couldn't take it seriously and would ruin it for everyone by giggling throughout.


Melissa (Books and Things) October 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I had thoughts of inventing something for the shower. I'm thinking a china marker and a tile… but it would be so hard to clean and really not a great point for long thoughts. Oh well… LOL

Great interview!


Carol M October 2, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I would just for fun. I wouldn't take it seriously.


Tena @ Crazy Book Slut October 3, 2011 at 12:04 am

I might go but I am not how much credit I would put into it and I am sure I would be chicken!
Thanks for the chance to win, book and series sounds Soooo good!


Emma @ BelleBooks October 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I haven't and I don't think I would either – it creeps me out too much!


BlackWolf October 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Haven't been to one but wouldn't mind attending, it would be an interesting experience


sweety October 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

well…..i don't know yet….


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