Accidental Inspiration

True Story:

Back in 1971, an advertising executive was flying to London to meet about some radio commercials. Fog caused the plane to be diverted to Ireland.   As the executive waited in an airport café for the fog to lift, he saw other plane passengers chatting and exchanging stories to pass the time. A multi-cultural group, they were sharing something else as well – a passion for Coca-cola. Thus the executive was inspired to write the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial which featured 500 people from around the world singing in the Italian hills.

CokeI love that Coke commercial. The above comes courtesy of my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, as a side-note in an article released this week about the ending of the Mad Men series – a tv series that I never watched, but I heard was popular.

I’m inspired by how God, the universe and some fog, put this idea in the mind of this advertising guy. How he took the time to watch the world around him and not the screen of a phone or tablet (though those weren’t really options in 1971). Had his plane gone straight through to London as planned, would he have thought of the idea for this enormously popular commercial?  I wonder.

Have you ever been the recipient of accidental inspiration, or perhaps divine intervention, the consequence of being at the right place at the right time? I think I was for my time travel, Charmed. I believe the universe brought me to the Charm gates at the Court of Two Sisters restaurant. I’ve been back to that restaurant a couple of times now and have observed lots of people walking past those gates without stopping to learn about their significance. Yet when I saw them, they inspired a romance.  🙂court of two sisters

In my story, a nasty jealous Queen Isabella blackmails an alchemist to enslave a much-beloved charm teacher in the iron gates destined for America. Time stops for the victim of the gates.  Here’s the scene when she is freed (by accidental inspiration 🙂  ) by the hero, one hundred and seventy years later in modern-day New Orleans.

Still, that the queen chose her, a highly placed advisor, over one of the ever-present footman appeared to be an insult. The poorly concealed laughter from the queen’s ladies-in-waiting supported Madeline’s impression. But Madeline had never refused a request from the queen, so off she went. Before she’d gone far, though, Padre Rodriguez had stepped in front of her. She recalled his sad, remorseful eyes. He said something, she couldn’t hear him well, then he raised his hand and a blinding flash …

    charm gates     Suddenly she was here — wherever this may be — cast onto the cold, hard floor of a narrow corridor, half-frozen and shivering. How could this be? Where was the Queen? The entourage? The noise? The stench? Only an explosion could produce such blinding light and the force necessary to toss her through the air like a discarded apple core.

         An explosion! Mon Dieu! The Queen! Madeline pulled herself off the floor, vigorously rubbing her arms for warmth. She scanned the narrow hall for more of Queen Isabella’s group. But she found no one. No scattered bricks. No residual smoke. No evidence of an explosion. Her parasol lay on the floor near a discarded bundle of cloth at the opposite end of the otherwise empty passageway.

That discarded bundle of cloth, by the way, is the unconscious hero, a physics professor from Tulane University.  Watch for Charmed to be out later this year if all falls according to plan.

Still, I’m more interested in the happy accident aspect of it all. My husband and I often wonder if we would have met and married if I hadn’t gone to that bar with my college roommate the one night I was in Cleveland, forty some years ago.  I wonder if I would even be writing at all, if not for the discovery of a local chapter of Romance Writers of America © and the education they provided.

How about you? Any happy accidents in your life? Pull up a comment and share 🙂 . I’ll send a free copy of mySmokeandMirrors_amazon recently released short story, Smoke and Mirrors, which is now available on Nook (I hope) to someone leaving a comment.

Speaking of prizes, there are unclaimed ones. Check out the booty prizes on the blog to see if you’re a winner.

BTW – here’s a photo of my agent, Cori Deyoe of Three Seas Literary Agency  by the charm gates in New Orleans.

Cori and Charm Gates



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  • Sally Schmidt says:

    I can’t wait for Charmed. Sounds great.

    I think we all experience those happy accidents much more than we realize. We make what seems like a little decision that leads to something that leads to something else . . . and on and on.

    For my 14th birthday my mother and grandmother insisted I invite my entire 8th grade class to a party. Good idea except my birthday is in July and I wasn’t exactly an A-lister 😉 so almost everyone was either on vacation or didn’t really want to come. One guy that I barely knew showed up (along with 2 friends and my little brothers), convinced his mother to go home and come back later when she came to pick him up, said he would try to fit me into his busy schedule lol and called me at 7:30 the next morning – and we’ll be celebrating our 46th anniversary in June.

    • Sally –

      I LOVE that story! Your husband was the ultimate “cool dude.” LOL. Obviously you were an A-lister to him.

      Yes. I think everyone has had those moments of divine intervention – but they still amaze me with thoughts about how things could have been different. Are we presented with opportunities daily that if we’d just turned right instead of left – our lives would be different? I t boggles the mind.

      In case I miss it – Happy Anniversary!! 46 years is quite an accomplishment. You both obviously know a good thing when you see it 🙂

  • Christine Stahurski says:

    By chance or accidental inspiration, I caught your invite on my newsfeed. And so, my first time on this blog, I’m delighted to read your brief excerpt from Charmed. You’re a marvel with words and wit, Donna. I’m happy Madeline’s story will soon see the light of day. Sweet anticipation.

    Thank you for sharing, “Buy the World a Coke” story. Rather mind-blowing how it led to such an inspirational commercial. It takes a strong right brain to tap into one’s creative sense and a strong left brain to recognize the intellect and logic of it all. I always thought that of you, Donna. An accidental inspiration when we first met. And utterly gifted.

    All the best with Charmed ~ Chris

    • Aw Christine – What a sweetheart you are!

      I think I might have started on Charmed when you were in Ohio. It was after Sherry Hartzler and I went to New Orleans for RWA. I was convinced that no one would buy Mrs. Brimley, so I started on a time travel. It won “the Far side” contest, the same year Mrs. Brimley won the Golden Heart. But I only had the prologue written (which is what won the contest) and ten I thought of my Invisible heroine…and Charmed never got finished until this year. Funny how these things happen.

      • Christine Stahurski says:

        Yes, I still lived in J-town and we were still cps. I thought Charmed was conceived during your first trip to New Orleans, with Ric. But maybe your first trip was with Sherry. Nonetheless, you’d fallen in love with the French Quarter and the Court of Two Sisters’ gates. When you returned from your trip, you shared with me, as if driven by the spirit of Madeline, your premise for Charmed. You even knew the title. I was amazed that a CPA could have such a lovely right brain. Accidental inspiration.

        • LOL – on a CPA actually possessing a right brain :). Most of my Accounting peers just shake their heads at me in my pursuit of something so illogical as romance. There are a few other CPAs in RWA and a ton of attorneys. That’s the profession that surprises me as they’ve been trained to have a lucrative profession – but they abandoned it to write.

          • Christine Stahurski says:

            Funny you should mention … Two entries I judged in a recent contest, contacted me for further critiquing. Both are attorneys. One said, she writes so much detail in her day job, she enjoys the calming waters of romance writing. I told her romance can be turbulent, too.

            I’ve taken enough of your time. Wonderful blogging with you, Donna. Keep me posted on Charmed. All the best ~

  • Helen says:

    Hi Donna

    A lovely post I can’t think of anything like this that has happened to me but I guess life can be life that everyone can be in the right place at the right time or sadly the right place at the wrong time 🙂

    I do love the sound of this one 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Hi Helen!

      I can’t believe you haven’t been the victim of serendipity at least once in your life 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement to bring this one to market. I’ve decided traditional publishing just moves too slow so I’m taking the steps to self-publish while I work on the sequel to Bound by Moonlight. Hope I can issue it soon.

  • Kat Sheridan says:

    OK, I’m a blind old lady. What exactly does that sign say? And love that it inspired a story for you! I totally believe in serendipity. I’d interviewed for my first real job and had been told it had been given to someone else. A week later, they called back and asked if I was still interested because the other person decided not to take it (did I mention I only got the interview because a friend already worked there?The job was never advertised). Anyway, I accepted the job. And met Hubs on the very first day. Thiry+ years and we’re still together! Luck, chance, serendipity, whatever you call it.

    • Kat – I love those chance meetings that mature into something life-lasting.

      The smaller sign says “These gates were wrought in Spain especially for The Court of Two Sisters. According to legend, Queen Isabella had them blessed so that their charm would pass to anyone that touches them” The larger sign labels the gates Charm Gates and says “Touch the gate will give you charm.”

      Of course, my premise is that the Queen said this tongue in cheek as she had a different meaning of “charm” all together. 🙂

  • flchen1 says:

    I do think many things in life are the result of what seem like happy accidents, Donna! Thanks for a lovely post!

  • I am so looking forward to reading CHARMED !! New Orleans is one of my very favorite places in the world. I have been very fortunate when it comes to those twists of fate. I had give up on an opera career after auditioning all over the States when I finished my undergrad degree. My husband and I moved to Hattiesburg so he could go to grad school. I got a job and pretty much forgot about music. The university advertised a community choir event to culminate in a performance of Handel’s Messiah around the Christmas holidays. I joined the choir on a whim. After several weeks they announced they would hold auditions for the solos. My husband suggested I audition as I could “sing Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion in my sleep.” (His words.) I have no idea what possessed me. I hadn’t worked my voice outside of choir practice in over a year. I sang, saw lots of surprised faces, but I didn’t get the solo. However, former Metropolitan opera star and university professor Vivian Woods chose this one evening to stop by the auditions. She called me the next day and asked me if I would consider studying with her. I took her up on it. Ended up finishing a masters and DMA with her, went to Austria on a Fulbright and ended up having a lovely career singing in Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe. And all because of a Messiah community choir and a voice teacher who said “Something told me to stop by.”

  • Louisa –

    That is absolutely AMAZING! I knew you sang opera but had no idea that it transpired through divine intervention. You were destined to drop into that audition – seriously.

    Hope you enjoy Charmed. I have a prequel story called “More Precious Than Rubies” that I plan to put out in advance of Charmed. My plan is to have it all out this year. We’ll see how that goes 🙂