Tag Archives: RSS

The Idea Mill #19

I've got to be honest with you, these subjects are getting harder to find. Zite Magazine got absorbed by Flipboard, and they promised bigger, better, and faster. Flipboard honestly isn't half as useful as Zite was.

Flipboard doesn't learn as well as Zite did, and it really never finds any content I'm looking for.

Most of these things came from my RSS feed and were pushed to me from folks I follow. Still, I persevered, and the Idea Mill will keep grinding along. It just might not be as frequently as it used to be.

Our first story is about clay. Not just any old clay, this stuff is limited to a five acre basin in Brittish Columbia. Let that sink in, that's less than most city parks in the middle of a huge wilderness. Bonus points because it looks blue.

What's really cool about this stuff is it seems to kill 16 different strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Read the article at this link.

Need to wipe out the zombie plague, the bubonic plague, your girlfriend's warts. Have I got a quest for you. Face down grizzly bears, giant pacific octopi, and Bigfoot to get to this stuff. Best of all it's rare, and you can't dig it up in your back yard. It might even add a little zing to your potions, and it's based in reality. Maybe your hero has to race some big makeup producer to file a claim on the stuff.

Our next inspiration came from an 800 year old Native American pot. The pot had seeds that someone waited seven years to check out. (That's 807 years for you mathematicians in the crowd.) When they finally got around to seeing what they had, the seeds were still viable, and scientists were able to grow an extinct squash plant. I like the idea that the name they give it is a Native American term meaning “big old squash.” I couldn't have named it better myself. Here is the link to the story. (Okay, if the seeds were alive, it wasn't really extinct. You can say lost if you want.)

What if the seeds grew something else. Does your science fiction need some pod people? What if eating the “big old squash” changed people somehow and unleashed a CDC nightmare upon us? What if the seeds were from another planet, what could you do with it?

Lastly we have Lichtenberg Figures, meaning lightning flowers. It appears that being struck by lightning leaves a pretty cool scar. It reminds me of the moss shapes we used to find in opals out in the Great Basin. In fact, it has me wondering about whether those formations might have been caused by lightning striking near the rocks.

These things are some kind of leftover due to the electrical breakdown. I googled a little bit, but there isn't much as far as humans go. The scar in the article is pretty cool though. (I want one.) Read about Lightning Flowers here.

Need some way to show that your fantasy character is marked, chosen, foretold. Maybe she needs a lightning flower. Maybe she needs some electrical based power, and her scar gives her away. Maybe she can use her power, but every time leaves an additional scar until it's so debilitating she cannot function in her world. This could set up a save the innocents – give up living scenario quite nicely.

Part of my usual routine is to suggest a cheesy story based upon all the elements combined. I only do this to spark your own imaginations. Maybe one of these items will make it into a story you're writing. I'd love to hear about it. Here we go:

The old archeologist found a pot full of ancient seeds. When he died, they were uncataloged, and forgotten. When his grandson planted some of them in a creepy blue Canadian clay they grew. They became a crop of man eating “big old squash” that proved unstoppable.

Only the girl with the lightning scars could stop them. She squandered her powers making beautiful light shows, and selling out to rock bands for their performances. If she uses her powers one more time she is going to be in a coma at best, if not dead. What will she do??? Dun, dun dunnnnn.

How about it speculative fiction writers? What would you do with any of these ideas? It's always nice to have a small basis in reality, and maybe something here will spark your imagination. Share with the rest of us. Remember, The Idea Mill is a category in my sidebar now, so if you need more help yourselves.

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The Idea Mill #14

I've gathered enough material for another Idea Mill. I've gained a few followers, so I'll explain what these are. I have some push feeds set up to send me news articles that appeal to me. This is one source of ideas that might make it into my fiction. Some get used, some don't. Maybe one of these articles will kick your own Muse in the pants.

The first one is about what I'll call solar ink. It can be used on a printer to make paper thin solar cells. If you are writing a science fiction story, this kind of thing can change the entire structure of your world. No more giant electricity corporations, no more dams across our rivers, no more nuclear plants.

“Hey Herb, cleaning the rain gutters again?”

“Yup. You?”

“I printed a bunch of new solar cells. That last snowstorm played Hell with my electricity.”

Maybe you want to coat your spaceship with them. As long as you stay within one solar system you have power, and the ability to step outside and replace them. Read the article here.

This next one really gets me, and I intend to use it myself. My outline about bio-hackers and grinders is the one that's languishing right now. It holds the most promise, and I don't want to force it. This may be the item it needs to move the outline ahead.

It gives us a current update about opium poppies, and how most of the the medical version is grown in Tasmania. Today scientists are trying to produce a genetically modified yeast that will do the same thing. There is so much potential here for a story that I can see a dozen ideas.

Maybe you like power struggles and thrillers. This is a play to take a profitable business away from simple farmers and move it into the lab. After the farms are forced to grow a different crop, the price is whatever the patent holders demand. Hold the patients hostage for everything they have, just to make the pain go away.

The middle ground might be a story along the lines of The Untouchables. The elite group is trying to shut down bakeries owned by the mob.

In my case, it's a yeast, of course it will get out of the lab. It becomes the new street drug, and even organized crime can't control it. It invades our food sources. It's in the very air we breathe, and maybe damp areas are to be avoided, or limited to how many hours you can spend there. People will certify 94% opiate free bread and beer, as the best you can get. Home baking and brewing will disappear, except for those who want to make drugs. Right now, I'm leaning that direction. I might do something else with it, but I'm going to use it. Read the article and see if it inspires your fiction. I'm going to use it like background setting in my grinder story.

This last one tugs at my heartstrings. I have no idea what the difference between the Northern and Southern white rhino is, but there has been a death in the family. A female Northern white rhino died in a European zoo this week. Leaving four Northern white rhinos on Earth. One lives in San Diego at the zoo. Three live in Sudan under 24 hour armed guard.

One of the ones in Africa is a male, the others are all female. They saved parts of the dead female in hopes of harvesting an egg. The saddest part of the story is the remaining population is too old and sick to reproduce. It appears a healthy Southern cow could carry one of their calves. I have to ask why they haven't tried this decades ago with possibly a bit larger gene pool. Humans spend money on opiatic yeast for Christ's sake. Read the obituary, I mean article here.

There is a pretty good story in any extinction. I have to ask, what if it were us? This might be more of a short story, but the last man on Earth discovers the last woman after decades of wandering. They're names are Adam and Eve. Too bad they're too old to reproduce.

Traditional Idea Mill posts involve me detailing a corny story incorporating all the ideas into one. These articles are pretty far removed from each other, but here goes nothing:

Adam, the last man on Earth, discovers a stash of solar ink. He thinks he can make new solar cells if he can find a printer that will still work. He goes searching through abandoned buildings, until he stumbles across Eve. He hasn't seen another human in ten years.

She's tending her vegetable garden, and Adam approaches carefully. They strike up a conversation and laugh about the suggestions behind their names. Neither one of them is capable of reproduction. He temporarily abandons his quest for a printer, or enough parts to make a few copies. They get lit on the homemade beer she brews which is very much like laudanum from the combo of alcohol and opiate yeast.

Over to you. Do any of these ideas spark your imaginations? Let me hear in in the comments.

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A Return to the Idea Mill

I had a great time having D. S. Nelson read my tea leaves. There’s still time to check out my reading and make comments here.

I also owe you guys my own post today. Regular readers know me as a writer of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy stories. I’ve also blogged about getting ideas from Zite magazine and things I subscribe to in my RSS reader. There’s been some interesting news lately and I decided to share it with you guys.

This is an Idaho headline. Strange black blobs have formed along the Snake River. No one seems to know what they are, but they appear benign. Read the news blurb here: strange blobs.

I can absolutely think of several science fiction stories and maybe even a fantasy based around this. For some reason, Creedence playing It Fell Out of the Sky is running through my head. What about you guys?

In this story, an artist used genetic material from a Van Gogh ancestor along with a laser printer. He created a replica of the artist’s severed ear that people can talk into. He says they can keep the ear alive for several years. Read the blurb here: Genetic ear.

My mind works differently, and I was taken back to The Boys From Brazil. This was a great Gregory Peck movie many years ago regarding the cloning of Adolph Hitler. As a writer, why not Genghis Kahn, Napoleon, or Torquemada.

This one is one of those list type articles that I call mad science. There are eleven technological “advancements” noted. Here’s the link: Super Powers.

Not all of them jump out at me, but I can see a stalker/rapist type with high tech invisibility clothing. I can also see computers that lead to the fall of man by cataloging all of human learning and thought. People no longer have to think for themselves, evolution takes us another direction, the power fails…

And finally, it wasn’t uncommon to cover books with human skin at one time. Harvard University confirmed they have one such book. Someone just helped them self to the skin of a mental patient who passed away. I remember hearing of a pair of shoes made from a Wild West criminal at one point. Read the book article here: Book.

So what if the unfortunate skin donor was really cursed or possessed? I can see a paranormal story where the book is some kind of religious or political artifact, but no one knows the curse is still there. Some centennial event is marked by a politician or Pope reading to the masses from the original book. Where could you go with that one? (Kind of makes me want to see Army of Darkness again.)

I’m sure there are more things out there. I like to post these on occasion, not as writing prompts per say, but to illustrate how I get my ideas. Where do you guys get ideas to write about? If one of these articles inspires you tell us all about it.

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The Idea Mill

Okay, it’s the idea mill, and one small gripe.

I look at a lot of stuff on the internet, but it isn’t all on my web browser. I have an RSS feed and I love Zite Magazine. This is where I get those odd ideas that enhance the stories.

My Muse, Lorelei, is great for inspiration on characters and plot. She isn’t a lot of help on the little things that make science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal stories work.

The stuff that’s coming out recently includes an article about prehistoric terror birds. (I wrote about them once, years ago.) The Russians think they will be able to clone a mammoth. A new comet has been spotted. There was also a breakin at a Nevada cave that holds archeological treasures. The other one that stuck with me this week is that ravens are capable of trading up for better treats.

What could a writer do with all that? A comet marks something or other, and an artifact must be recovered from a cave to bring about the next ice age. The thief doesn’t know which item it is, only the raven can tell him. Don’t judge, I made that up in 30 seconds.

I learned that Zite magazine is changing. They have been absorbed by someone called Flipboard. They promise that Zite won’t go away, and it’s going to be better than ever. Yeah, that’s what always happens. I’m the guy who still has an XM radio. I still miss the XM format and channels they had too. I’m not holding my breath for Zite’s future.

There have been some awesome science fiction art pieces on Deviant art lately. I don’t have to use Zite to browse here, but I do. I find a lot of inspiration in art.

Here are a couple of websites that aren’t just cool, they can be sources for story items too. The first one is called Retronaut. It’s full of old advertisements and stories from the past. Most of it is outrageous stuff, but it can enhance a science fiction story or a steampunk story.

The second one is called Dude I Want That . This one is full of more modern stuff, but I could sure pirate some of it into a story.

I get all my archeology and mythology stuff through Zite and my RSS feed. While they also provide modern stuff, I find the two websites more helpful with science fiction projects.

It looks like I’ll probably need a replacement for Zite pretty soon. What do you folks know about that you can share with me?

What sites inspire you in your fiction? Come on, share with the world.

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Idea’s and where to find them.

The blog is new and shiny right now. I intend to post about twice per month, like payday. I don’t want to blow up anyone’s mailbox, but I want to have a few posts to get the conversations going.

They say a good writer has to read as much as he writes. I agree with this, and I’m a failure at it. I’d rather write than read, for now. I manage to get by with articles and comics. This isn’t the same, but it’s better than nothing.

I don’t want to talk about big concepts, just little seeds. If you water them, they will grow. My sources are mainly my RSS reader, and Zite Magazine. Google and others are just too time consuming.

I get all kinds of stuff in my RSS feed. There are food foragers, archaeology posts, comics, and many other things. I also get posts from other writers. Don’t be afraid to subscribe to feeds that interest you. If an article or two aren’t your cup of tea, you have permission to move to the next one.

Zite Magazine is a cool app. It works like Pandora radio in that it learns what you like. You choose topics that interest you, they send articles to your magazine. When you go through your posts, you can give a thumbs up, or down, and the magazine gets smarter.

Many ideas will never go on the page. Few will become stories on their own. These feeds are great for the little things that help you stay true to your genre. Maybe your science fiction needs a gadget. It’s nice to know what cutting edge science is doing. I wrote a couple of steampunk stories years ago, and needed gadgets. It worked great.

Items in the news recently include excavation of supposed vampire graves in Europe, Comet Ison, and giant killer hornets from China. I may never use these, but they bring a lot to the table.

There are people excavating ancient breweries. They scrape the crocks for yeast samples and plant material. Today someone is making beer, mead, whatever, from those ancient “recipes” using the same yeast. If you were writing a paranormal piece, the unintended side effects could make a whole novel. They were culturing the yeast, what did they get by accident…

Writers never really struggle for ideas. We usually have too many ideas. These tools are great for giving a story some extra oomph. I wrote a story once that just needed a special something. I read about new electronic circuits that are so thin they dissolve in water. Real scientists hope to use them in surgical situations someday. In my story, an arsonist used them, and the fire crew washed the evidence away. This one will go up on Amazon eventually.

What sources do you use? I’d love to see some suggestions in the comments.

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