Tag Archives: idea mill


Lisa* and I wound our way from the river toward our tents. We spent the morning watching the buffalo and wildebeest go to water. A few small crocodiles sunned on a sandbar, while hippo eyes watched the ungulates drink.

Lisa’s normally pristine safari outfit showed the wear of countless encounters with the thorns that seem to grow everywhere here. The smell of smoke and the oppressing heat became the norm.

We stopped to let a small group of buffalo pass in front of us. “I don’t trust those things,” she said.

“You shouldn’t. Robert Ruark once said they look at you as if you owe them money.” I took off my hat and wiped my brow as they filed past. “What do you think about a trip to town?”

“There’s a town out here? Why couldn’t we stay there? Do they have WiFi?”

“WiFi, a spaceport, and best of all an air conditioned library.”

We made our way to Camp Research, as designated by the sign Lisa made. She used the hand pump to fill the Land Rover, while I gathered my iPad and some notebooks.

“What’s the name of this place?” She asked.

“I don’t know. My imagination just goes on and on. Sometimes a town pops up.”


“What? No, seriously?”

“Yup. The town is called Lisaville. Now get in the car.”

The drive involved a dirt road and one stop for a mother elephant who seemed more angry with her calf than our car. We merged onto a tiny paved road, followed by a four lane highway. Ours was the only car on the surface. Everyone else flitted overhead on the Skyway system.

“Why didn’t you get us a Skyway vehicle?” Lisa asked.

“Ambiance. I’m trying to get the flavor of Africa. Today is all about the other outlines. I’d kind of like to get back to science fiction.”

Lisa pulled to the curb in back of the library. “Robot girls are all in favor of science fiction. You have your phone. Let me know when you’re ready to go.”

“Where are you going?”

“There has to be a shower around here somewhere, and a store, and an Internet coffee shop.”

We parted ways, and I started my research. I found a bio-hack to include in my Grinder outline. I’m going to include this article in the next Idea Mill post. It basically has the potential to not only become the next street drug, but to invade the very food we eat. I’m going to use it, but others may get some ideas too.

Research into the story about yak guy is almost impossible. His growth has to be more spiritual and I need to find that without a book or deep research. I stumbled across a book of magic items, and may use one in my fantasy outline.

It’s getting to the point where each idea, and potential outline has merit. They all have at least one big flaw too. This is the thing about outlines. They never come completely together until you start writing. Getting a chapter down creates new ideas. Character interactions and situations build fences that limit possibilities. This is a good thing.

I packed it in for the day and took a walk. A bar, decked out in neon, caught my eye. Cars descended from the Skyway into its parking lot.

Humans and aliens of every stripe filled the place. I made my way to the bar and looked at the menu. Some of it was in a language I didn’t understand. I told the bartender, who had four complex eyes, to give me the house special.

While he worked on my order, I watched a multi headed slug thing swim across a bowl of something blue atop the bar. I didn’t know if it was a living garnish in someone’s drink, or a patron small enough to swim inside his own drink.

My order was green and bubbling, and served in a frozen erlenmeyer flask. It looked like something right out of Mad Science 101. I carried it to a quiet table in the back and decided to people watch, thing watch. I took a sip. It was cold, refreshing, and tasted slightly of licorice.

She just appeared out of nowhere. Green, transparent, beautiful. She never said a word, but slid into my booth and leaned her head on my shoulder.

Ideas flowed. I knew the yak guy would be attracted to a place like this, and made a few notes. Grinders and bio hackers would like this place too. I made notes. Characters could get in all kinds of trouble in a place like this.

A barmaid came by and topped off my drink, using a hose from a brass backpack she wore. I watched her tail wag as she made her way to the other tables. My new companion slid in closer, and wrapped her arms around me, as I sipped the top off my flask.

Lisa came through the door, looking like a page out of a safari clothing catalog. Her clothes were pressed and snag free. Even her pith helmet had been cleaned. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Having a drink. Are you ready to leave so soon?”

“I’ve been texting you for hours.” She stuck a freshly painted nail in my flask and placed a single drop on her tongue, swirling it about. “Ethanol, propanol, butanol, and…yup, thujone. This is absynth.” She pointed a finger at my companion. “And your new friend is your old friend, the Green Fairy.”

I slid away from the fairy and looked at her. She made a pouty face.

“Lorelei told you years ago she would be your Muse, but you had to choose between her and the Green Fairy.” She grabbed me by my shirt and yanked me from the booth. The fairy wiggled her fingers in a seductive bye bye.

She dragged me out to the Land Rover. It was already dark outside. She made a u-turn on the empty surface street and headed for Camp Research.

“So what did you do today?”

“I found a public bath house. I needed to get the sand and woodsmoke out of my hair. The people there were so friendly.”

I looked at her perfect torso in the moonlight. “I’ll bet they were.”

“Then I bought some new clothes, got my nails done, backed myself up to the cloud, and downloaded everything I could learn about Africa. It’s a good thing you sent Lorelei over to Charles Yallowitz’s blog. If she found you cavorting with the Green Fairy again, she might just quit.”

“I just ordered a drink. I didn’t know what was in it.”

“In a science fiction town? You really ought to know better by now. Maybe you really are better suited for a tent under the stars.”

“I wonder why there’s no bourbon fairy? Maybe I should write one.”

Lisa slapped her own forehead and groaned.

*Lisa is the main character in my first book, Wild Concept. She’s a robot, and works as my writing assistant these days.



Filed under Muse, Writing

Idea mill #7

We haven’t had an Idea Mill post in quite a while. I save interesting articles that sparked my imagination, then I post the links for everyone. I’ll add a bit about where my mind takes me, and you can add ideas in the comments.

The first one is about the plant, wolfsbane. In this article, a gardener handled the plant, and died from the exposure. This looks like an awesome possibility for a cozy mystery. I don’t particularly believe the story, but it would make an interesting witchcraft story too. Miss Marples could have a lot of fun here.

This article discusses secret military bases, and the conspiratorial projects they might be working on. There seems to be no end to conspiracy theories, but a story can be so much better if it’s based upon one that’s popular. There is a wealth of possibility here. If testing biological weapons on the citizens of San Francisco doesn’t have a story in it, nothing does.

This story is about a dog. Who doesn’t like a dog story? Essentially, this adorable pit bull was dog napped. The good people in Massachusets identified him from a microchip and returned him to his owner. The cool part is that the dog made a trek from Florida to Salem. Of all places on Earth, the dog went to Salem. With its history of witchcraft, there has to be a story in there somewhere.

Take one, or more, of these articles and ask yourself “what if.” What if a secret military installation was creating a biological weapon using wolfsbane? What if an intern found out, but instead of blowing the whistle, she sent her familiar to Salem to recruit help from more powerful family members?

Can you find your next story in these articles? Tell me about it in the comments.


Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

The Idea Mill #6

Regular readers know that I save cool articles and make posts about them on occasion. These articles are to get your creative juices flowing. Some of them are just cool story elements, some of them might become the basis of an entire story. Let’s jump right to it…

Once upon a time, scientists experimented with creating genetically modified humans. This actually happened, but they are few in number. This article informs us that this small handful of people are going to graduate high school soon.

These people actually have one father and two mothers. We really have no idea what this means for them, or their future offspring. Remember that modern man crossbred with Neanderthals at some time, and most of us carry small snippets of Neanderthal DNA. These people will reproduce someday, and the result could change humanity as we know it.

This could be the basis of an entire story. One of these folks would make a great main character. It could involve living with a secret, torturing herself about what her pregnancy will reveal, or even an X-Men style story.

The next one is about a smoking mountain in Alaska. They say it isn’t a volcano or fire related.

This could become a great dragon story, or maybe you’re more into Mole Men. It reminds me of the gas in Cheri Priest’s Boneshaker. I suppose it would fit in well with a shamanistic story too.

This one is a list of lost treasures. I like it because it involves Maguffin style items that aren’t all made of gold.

Maybe your plucky heroine needs to go on a treasure hunt to find a lost patent. She has a higher purpose, but is up against glory and money seekers. Can she invent the whatchamacallit that saves whatever, or will the bad guys defeat her, plunging the world into darkness?

This one is just a story element. Have any of you ever heard of cat circles?

Apparently cats are attracted to circles. They get inside them and stay inside them. This works really well for a witchcraft story, because circles are important, and cats are prevalent.

It isn’t limited to witchcraft though. I wonder if Indiana Jones could use his whip to make a circle before the temple tiger eats him?

Have fun with these. If you use any of them, stop back and tell me what you came up with. Let me know if you experiment on your cats too. I know you will.


Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

The Idea Mill #4

Okay, I took a W. A. G. at just how many of these I’ve posted. I decided to number them so I don’t wind up reusing the names.

These articles are pushed to me via my RSS reader and Zite Magazine. When I find a good one I bookmark it until I have three, then I share them with you. These aren’t the kind of things to make a whole story about, but they can put a little pep into your story when you need it.

The first one has speculative fiction written all over it. It’s about decapitation. There’s more legend here than hard news, but it really gets the imagination moving. How many pirates could you save by walking past them after your own beheading? Read it here: Decapitation. I remember Jayne Mansfield too, but I was very young when this happened.

The next one reminds me of those movie girls who can do anything with a Bobbie pin. This is the “Swiss Army Knife” of hair clips. I can see Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson whipping one of these out of her hair to get out of a tight spot. My own character, Lisa the robot, could have used one of these. There’s a link in there that shows more photos. Check out Hair Clip.

The third one sounds a bit like witchcraft. It’s modern medicine using a bacteria found in dirt. They did the whole genetic modification thing to it, of course. It cannot thrive in too much oxygen. It just so happens that cancerous tumors have a much lower level of oxygenation than healthy tissue. They tested it on animals, and ultimately one human. This stuff eats the tumor, and dies out when it reaches healthy tissue. The story has wonderful descriptions of lancing the infection and pus, if you need to increase the squirm factor in your manuscript. Read the news article here: Bacteria.

The bacteria begs for a speculative fiction writer to ask, “What if?” I also like to figure out, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Maybe it increases the human lifespan by 50 years. This could bankrupt the economy, the health care system, Social Security, and the insurance industry. Bring on the distopian settings.

Maybe scientists tested too soon and the patient turns into a raging monster. Scarlett Johanssen has to use her special hair clip to decapitate it.

Have fun with these, and let me know if any if them lubricates your imagination.


Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

Another Idea Mill post, kind of

I’ve been very unproductive this weekend, and it irks me. The ladies are getting ready to go shopping and I may get a few hours to concentrate on my projects. (Stay away from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.)

I wanted to post this morning, but had to interact with real humans for awhile. While they’re all in the shower, I decided to throw a few goodies your way.

The first one involves two articles about the FDA. First they found some unsecured smallpox virus in a closet. This is considered extinct for all intents and purposes. The article is here: Smallpox  (Note: there is a character named Variola in my book, Arson. You’ll have to read it to find out why.) Then they found even more goodies. These include oldies but goodies like spotted fever and dengue. Here is the article: Oldies but Goodies (I’ve had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I don’t recommend it.)

Now they know what it feels like to have a kid move out. You go through their bedroom and find a sandwich from 1997. These are supposed to be some of the most secure facilities on the planet, and they don’t even know what’s there. “Hey, Bob. We’re getting inspected tomorrow. You need to straighten up the lab. Just shove all that crap in the closet or crawl space.”

As a writer, I can see all kinds of possibilities here. Lovers of distopian or contagion type stories should be rejoicing. Writers can apply what happened to chemical compounds too. Why should biologicals have all the fun?

Next, scientists have invented a new shade of black. It sounds stupid on the surface, but it’s kind of interesting. It absorbs almost all light sent its way. It’s so black the human eye has a hard time detecting it. You can read about it here: Black The article mentions Wile E. Coyote, so you know it has to be good.

Writers could turn this into all kinds of camouflage. Everything from cloaks of concealment to space ship cloaking devices. Maybe it also absorbs laser blasts or light sabers. Maybe it’s used for hypothermia blankets. I can see all kinds of secret societies and shadow organizations using this to conduct business undetected.

This is why it’s a hodgepodge. I usually save the links until I have three. The last one is today’s blog post from Chris McMullen. It’s not part of the idea mill, but writers need to know about this. Chris adds some real common sense to the discussion about Kindle Unlimited. This is a new subscription based program; whereby, subscribers can download anything on the KDP list for free. I think it sounds pretty cool for voracious readers. Here’s Chris’ article: Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies. One thing is certain, Amazon just changed the game again.

For all you early adopters of Kindle Unlimited, all of my books are already there. (Hint.) Chris may have just convinced me not to lower my prices.

I’m off to paint my truck a new shade of black and see if it works on police speed guns. If I accomplish anything today I’ll log on and post about it.


Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

Another visit to the Idea Mill

These are usually quick posts, but they are also well received. I owe you guys one after last night. It’s 5:00 AM and I’m waiting to go to work.

The first article is about archaeologists who may have found the remains of a legendary creature. This is one of those cryptozoology stories that may have a basis in fact. I think it’s fertile ground for a story, or a Scoobie Doo episode. Read The Hell Hound of Suffolk.

The next one isn’t so much story fodder for me. I’ve already written about my enchanted drinking horns. Some of you might like this story to add a bit of background to your medieval stories. Drinking Horns. If nothing else they are pretty.

This bit of inspiration comes from a music video. I get ideas from all kinds of places, and I’ll bet you too. I kind of want to write a story about this, but Lorelei* hasn’t inspired me beyond that. Last of the American Girls.

* Lorelei is my Muse.


Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing