Writing “Blood Ties” Part 1: Genesis of an Idea

In preparation for the coming release of the first book in the Blood Ties series, I thought it’d be interesting to look back on the process and do a little documentation. Things don’t just come out of nowhere, right? Mighty oaks grow from trees, people come from embryos, and books (as it turns out) come from ideas. In this case, it was a slight twist on an old idea: instead of totemic power granting strength to people, what if people derived strength from that which they wore…like the skins of animals?

One of the (many) series I read when I was younger was the Shadowrun series. There were tons of interesting ideas in there, and I loved the duality of the contrasts between the orders of magic and technology. On the technology side, there were datajacks and whole universes inside the ‘net (which actually predated a lot of common internet knowledge). On the magic side, there were trolls, elves, dragons. Oh, and people of course. The one that was most interesting (I think he was the main character) had a totem that gave him access to abilities. This stuck with me for a while and rolled around in the back of my mind like a rock rolls around in a gem tumbler (which I never had, sadly). I’d occasionally pull out the idea of having a character with a totem for other books, but would end up dismissing it every time because it seemed too easy, too formulaic. If I were to ever write a book with heavy Native American themes, then fine; otherwise, it seemed too much like a copy.

Fast forward a couple of years. I’ve been working in retail for years now and have trained myself to work physically while letting my mind wander. While putting out stock at Walgreens (cause face it, you can only put out so many constipation remedies before going insane) the idea came back to me, only this time in a slightly more clear fashion. What if instead of just having a totem, you wore your totem. It wasn’t wholly unique; after all, Native American cultures often wore masks of the animals they wished to honor or derive power from. In this case, though, the person wearing the item would actually gain their power. Wear the skin of a bear and you gain the power of a bear. Wear the skin of a cheetah and you gain the speed of a cheetah. The possibilities were as wide ranging as the animal kingdom itself. I had an idea. I didn’t have a specific direction, but the idea itself was strong enough that I didn’t put it back in the tumbler for more polishing. I wanted to study this one, drill down on it, and see where it could take me.

Tomorrow in Part 2, I talk about sharing the idea and gaining a partner.

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