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The Bottomless Black Hole of Ideas


Succeptible to Serendipity

I caught a plane to Melbourne recently and when I flipped through the in-flight magazine, I found that a previous passenger had written a series of comments through the pages. The passenger had mused about flying, the glossy ads, told a joke so you had to turn the page to find the answer. I found myself flipping to read each comment and this gave me an idea.


Tweaking the Idea

The next Selkie Moon mystery takes her to Hong Kong. What if I create a short prologue with Selkie on her way and she finds a series of messages in the in-flight mag? They seem like fun, but later they become a kind of prophesy, providing clues to the mystery.


Ideas from Fans

I told the idea to fans in the Selkie’s Circle Private Facebook Group and asked them to toss in any ideas of their own, including what the previous passenger might have written. Wow! Here are some of them:

  • Maybe its a code of some sort intended for a fellow passenger and Selkie happens to sit in his/her seat - leading to a money laundering ring?
  • Maybe someone flying to Hong Kong would make notes of things to try, like milk tea, then maybe he sees something in the tea leaves
  • Prophesy or warning? Someone returning from Hong Kong might circle words or lines that form a puzzle-map of an adventure. One to have or one to avoid? I picture Selkie not only finding this breadcrumb trail in the magazine but having some sort of intuitive interaction with it, her own psychic assembling of clues. Will the person who left the trail be in the book?
  • Selkie finds “prophesy” written on the very last page …
  • What if one of the pencilled comments refers to the in-flight entertainment — eg a Chinese ghost movie?
  • The scribbled comments might include:

  1. A picture of a man in a sampan: Who is lying under the tarp?
  2. An advertisement for a fancy watch: A stolen watch leads to desperate homeless man.
  3. An article about the Tian Tan Buddha: There is more than just a statue here.
  4. An article about Hong Kong food specialties: Find the Wind Sand Chicken.
  5. Notes written around the editorial, subject hazards of travel: I should stay away from the water …

From the Editors

Two editors like this idea for a prologue but they’d both prefer to see the story begin in Chapter 1.


Editor 1: If you start the novel with Selkie and her companion already in Hong Kong, Selkie wouldn’t find the annotated in-flight magazine, but could you achieve the same effect if she finds something inside their apartment instead? Then it would be more focused on her quest, and you could tie it in with her spooky experiences, if the two things are connected. By the way, of the suggestions your fans made, the phrase ‘Find the Wind Sand Chicken’ most piques my interest. Which one are you leaning towards?


Editor 2: While I like your ideas for the prologue, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Selkie needs to be shown on the flight over. Chapter One transports me immediately to Hong Kong and her current predicament. While deciphering the scribblings in the in-flight magazine would provide further clues for readers and no doubt be interesting and fun to read, the real story starts when Selkie witnesses a crime in the night market.  However, if you do decide that you’d like to keep the prologue then I particularly like the idea from your fan that Selkie would read an editorial warning her about the dangers of swimming off the coast as this relates to her fear of water, which runs throughout the series.


Short and Scary

A prologue can intrigue the reader – or it can slow the pace when a dramatic incident on Page One would provide an immediate hook into the story. Based on the in-flight magazine idea, I’m experimenting with a very short prologue, ending with a shock for Selkie and the reader.


You’ll have to wait until this book is published to find out which ideas I’ve used and what new ideas they’ve inspired, but you can read a short extract from Chapter One HERE.