"Hey, Stoney, where do you get your ideas, anyway?"
If there's one question that I get asked more than anything else, that would be the one. It's perfectly understandable, really. Let's face it: Stories about SWAT teams from the future surrounding a 24-hr. diner or about Egyptian plagues hitting 1950s-era Hollywood film crews aren't exactly the most conventional things you'll find out there. They're different, and people want to know how it is that I come up with some of this stuff.
There's no easy answer. Inspiration comes in a lot of different ways. I can't ever predict exactly when or how it's going to hit me. I just recognize it when it does.
My imagination gets captured by a lot of different things. Blurbs for TV shows, movies, and books can sometimes turn the gears in my mind. Occasionally it may come from the random on-line or newspaper article about something so unusual, so random, that it can't help but get stuck in my memory.
It may be that, while reading a book or watching a movie, a minor character strikes me as more interesting than the actual protagonist. For that matter, sometimes I'll see a real person out and about somewhere, and something about them makes me wonder, "What's their story?"
Or, sometimes, I may be reading listings on http://www.duotrope.com/, and find that a particular call for submissions just really leaps out at me. That's how the two aforementioned stories, "We Serve All Kinds Here" and "In the Shadow of the Sphinx" were born, even though--ironically enough--neither was accepted by the markets whose call for submissions inspired me to write those particular stories. Go figure, huh?
If you want inspiration, my best piece of advice to you would be to keep your eyes and your mind open. Be observant, be curious. And when a good idea comes to you, write it down somewhere. Nothing is more frustrating than getting an idea and then forgetting the idea itself, yet still being able remember that there was something there that you can't retrieve.