Back Up the Idea Truck — Guest Alan Orloff

RUNNING+coverThanks so much for stopping by for a visit Alan! Alan has two great giveaways today of his latest book. Running from the Past is a Kindle Scout winner.

Here’s a bit about Running from the Past: After selling his company for millions, Colby Walker takes his family–and his son’s friend Jess–on vacation, wanting nothing more than to unwind in the sun and surf. But he spots the alarming signs in short order: Jess’s downcast eyes, a familiar passivity, and angry red welts marching across the boy’s bare back. Walker understands what they mean because he’d been that boy, many years ago.

He’d suffered in silence, too. Can Walker stand by and let the torment continue? Does he trust the authorities–the same ones who had failed him in his youth–to take care of Jess? Hell no. With Jess in tow, Walker packs up the minivan and takes his family on the lam, keeping one step ahead of Jess’s cruel father and unhinged ex-con aunt. When the stakes escalate and his headstrong actions put people’s lives in jeopardy, Walker must finally conquer his past before he can save those he loves. He can run no longer.

Take it away, Alan.

Writers are often asked where we get our ideas. Over the years, I’ve gotten mine from different places.

For a while, I subscribed to a service, much like the old Netflix model, where they’d send me one idea at a time (or three ideas, if I signed up for the premium option), and I’d evaluate it and either keep it or send it back. Of course, once the idea streaming services took over, my lame mail-in service was never the same. Bankrupt in two years. I still have a leftover idea I never returned to them (anybody want it?).

Then, I found this neat little storefront, down near the docks, where I’d often spend an afternoon browsing for ideas. The place was cluttered and disorganized, and the owner sure liked to bend your ear, but if you exercised patience and didn’t mind getting your hands dirty, you could find some real gems. Some were a little banged up and others were coated with a layer of dust you needed a chisel to dislodge, but it was a real treasure trove. Unfortunately, one night, the place burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances.

After that, I signed up for an adult ed class, Adventures in Plotting. When I got there and the instructor started talking about clay and kilns, I realized there had been a typo in the course listing (an extra “l”). So, no help there. (Although, I did end up making a nice two-tone glazed vase.)

It was at that point when I decided I needed a change, so I resigned myself to generating my own ideas. Surprisingly, I found that I have plenty of ideas running through my head; the challenge is coming up with enough time to explore them all.

In most cases, I can’t identify that instant when I thought of an idea for a particular book. The ideas were just … there. But there have been a couple notable exceptions, a couple of times where I know exactly when I got a superlative idea.

AlanOrloffpicSeveral years ago, I was at the wonderful Sleuthfest conference, in Florida. I woke up at 4:00 am on Sunday morning, with an idea, almost FULLY FORMED, in my head. It stood the “middle-of-the-night garbage test” when I was able to remember it in the morning (and didn’t think it was complete trash). With a few tweaks to the basic (cool, high-concept) premise, I turned it into a thriller (which I’m still shopping).

And that brings me to my current release, RUNNING FROM THE PAST, just out from Kindle Press (as a winner of Amazon’ new Kindle Scout program). I also remember where/when I got the idea for this one.

I was on vacation with my family in Sandbridge, VA (near Virginia Beach). My son had brought along one of his friends, and I got to thinking. What would happen if we didn’t bring that friend home? If we just decided to take off with him, headed for parts unknown? I needed some rationale, of course, to explain why a seemingly normal family would abscond with a seemingly normal kid, so my imagination kicked in. And that’s how I came up with the idea for RUNNING FROM THE PAST, which, by pure coincidence, starts off with a family on vacation in Sandbridge, with the son’s friend along for the ride.

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away a Kindle copy of RUNNING FROM THE PAST to one commenter at random (I’ll need your email address so I can *gift* it to you).

GIVEAWAY #2: I’m also giving away two signed copies (trade paperback) on Goodreads. Click through to enter!

Readers: How about you? Do you remember where you get your ideas from? Any good stories?
Alan Orloff’s debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. He’s also written two books in the Last Laff mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE and DEADLY CAMPAIGN (from Midnight Ink). Writing as his darker half Zak Allen, he’s published THE TASTE, FIRST TIME KILLER, and RIDE-ALONG. His latest suspense novel, RUNNING FROM THE PAST (Kindle Press), was a Kindle Scout “winner.” Alan lives in Northern Virginia and teaches workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. For more info, visit:

19 Thoughts

  1. Thanks for inviting me to blog today, Sherry! And thanks, Edith! Congrats to both of you on your Agatha nominations! Terrific!

  2. I still have a chain store in my area that has some great ideas.

    I wrote a short story when I was in high school that sprout from hearing an author talk about a book in his series. It involved a canoe race and a natural disaster happening near the climax. I thought about a different twist on a canoe race, and a short story was born.

  3. Hi Alan! Welcome to the Wicked Cozies.

    The magic “What if?” What if I never took this kid home?

    I tend to follow the ideas that nag me. The image that appears over and over in my mind. The little movie that runs in my head. The “what if” I can’t shake. I don’t know where they come from, but I always hope the fact that they’re hanging around means they’re keepers.

    1. Thanks for having me, Barbara! Yes, it’s those pesky ideas that hang around that ultimately get our attention. Like children.

  4. Congratulations on the Kindle Scout award! The book sounds great. And what a great seed of an idea. I’m wondering if you shared it with your son’s friend’s parents at the time–and if so, wheher they ever let their son go anywhere with you again! I second the idea that there’s an image reappearing in my head that I just can’t seem to shake. Great post!

    1. Thanks! I don’t believe they know about it, even now. I hope they’ll come to my Thank You Book Party, where I’ll announce that fact in front of the entire crowd. That would be entertaining!

  5. Very funny blog post, Alan. The plot of your thriller sounds terrific. I look forward to reading it. What an unusual way to find an idea for a book. Your son’s friend must have been very different from the friends my children brought home when they were teenagers. It never crossed my mind to keep any of those visiting kids.

  6. Great post, Alan. The idea service really delivered on Running From the Past, looking forward to reading it!

  7. And the winner, picked at random from the commenters is: Barbara! (I’ll need the email address associated with your Amazon Kindle account–email it to

    Thanks again for hosting me here on your blog!!

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