We were Future Retro…

future retro woman

Warning: Blatantly sentimental blog ahead!

During a gigantic stall in revision I’ve been looking inspiration. Every time I think I’ve found a new source, I’m disappointed. My bad-boy muse is vacationing on stellar shores far from here, so I can’t count on him. Sometimes though, inspiration is right under your nose or, in my case, right under the stairway.

When my husband suggested we clean out the boxes from under the stairs, I was excited. We don’t collect much stuff and we didn’t bring a great deal of junk from our former lives, but what we do have has lurked under the carpeted treads… for the last twenty years. Filled with enthusiasm, he lugged the crumbling containers out, piling them in the middle of our walkout basement.Nikon

“OK, tell  Harry Potter his room is ready now,” he called, grinning at me as I stared down at the huge mountain of cardboard artifacts. Suddenly, I was Indian Jones unearthing relics from an ancient life – my own.  How will I feel when I open the photo albums, I wondered. Inside there might be dragons…or so I thought.

Instead I found inspiration.

As I looked into the faces of dear friends and an ex-husband, a lost lover and a sweet child named for me, my wonderful co-workers still living or long dead, I was amazed.  How could people who sucked the air from the room then appear so human and normal now? Apparently my eyes were dazzled by what was in front of them at the time, leaving my mind to expand moments of the past into infinite size.

The second those photos were snapped we all became Future Retro; we just didn’t know it yet.baby photo

So, after dashing away a tear, I decided to wrangle all that sentiment into something useful – Word fodder. Opening the door to the past sometimes tests our nerves but, even if we laugh or blush, nothing more can happen to those Future Retro days. Now they are strictly under our control, highly charged emotional clay we can mold into fiction.

Imagination is, after all,  the sum total of our memory and experience. Our fears and hopes, humor and chaos invade our writing resulting in characters who are fearless or weak, compassionate or wrathful. These people  are bold, they accomplish what we were unable to accomplish…maybe.  They succeed where we failed…or the other way around:)

Do memories inspire you? Have you tapped the aquifer of memory in your own mind?


Future Retro is a fantastic 80’s compilation remix released in 2006 by Rhino Records. Check it out on Wikipedia and, while you’re there, contribute to keep Wikipedia commercial free.

Photos: Foter

Quiet Please

Q – Only nine blogs left. Here’s a quick comment, taking us one step closer.trickling_water-web

Something important is missing from our lives – something soothing, thought enabling and natural.


The following excerpt from a wikiHow article confirms my suspicions about our noisy daily lives:

Scientists estimate that we are subject to receiving one billion stimuli every second in our brains.
 Of this amount, our brain manages to filter out most but there are still around 100 sensations kept for continued processing every second. And much of the stimuli received is in the form of noise. With all this bombardment, you can be forgiven for feeling easily distracted, ready to down tools and go for a little mind wander (or even a wander somewhere else totally).

Before I started writing, the constant confusion of tv, radio, talking, and music was annoying, but I learned to live with it. After I began my novel, noise became an issue.  Keeping my train of thought hurtling down the narrow tracks ahead was difficult on a good day and with excess noise it was nearly impossible. Now, I use ambient music apps, ear-buds, or earplugs with moderate success.

I do understand we live in the Age of Racket. On a warm summer day, I roll the windows down and pour bone-rattling latin jazz over my fellow commuters at a stop light. So, OK, I am an occassional noise marauder.

But, the next time cacophony invades the space between your ears visualize the following image:

It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.


Mighty Mighty MOJO

M– Wow. Half way through A to Z Blog Challenge! Keep going!

Words, with their mysterious origins and myriad of meanings, have always fascinated me. My bookcase is crammed with dictionaries, thesauruses, combinations of the two, a battered copy of The Dictionary of American Slang and, on my iPod, Slango Lite lurks misfiled under weather apps.electric-book

So what does MOJO mean?  Lately, I’ve lost my writing mojo. I figure if I put its definition down in words, mojo will return to me. (Your basic magical thinking!)

Dictionary of American Slang – 1975 – mojo  n. Any narcotic. Addict use. (Yikes!)

Oxford America Writer’s Thesaurus – 2004 – noun – informal – magic, voodoo, hoodoo, wizardry; charm. (Pretty straightforward.)

Slango Lite – 4/14/13 – The word was not found in the database. (So much for apps.)

m-w.com – 4/14/2013 – a magic spell, hex or charm resulting in a magical power.  (I’ll settle for a magical power.)

But,  writing has nothing to do with magic spells.  The real magic is in the writing.  Loss of mojo only means you work harder. You stare at the screen, pound the keys and invoke the power of words. Eventually, you find the right combination of letters that will unleash the reader’s imagination. True that. Even so,  I would like to wave the wand over my words once in a while and watch them fall into place like flecks of gold leaf on the page.

What magic do you use to write your best work ever?

Infinite Variety

11971499311643754029erik_Single_Snowflake.svg.thumbI – I love snow. Even after 34 years in this cold mountain kingdom, snow fascinates me. Each storm brings an infinite variety of ice crystals as uncountable as stars. Every new snow I can’t resist using a complex scientific tool, the plastic ruler, to measure the depth of the magic white stuff on our back deck.

Ancient cultures with long winters  (Winter is Coming) described snow in practical ways: consistency, stability, and color. Survival depends on knowing the condition of the snow and ice under your feet. Our modern culture describes snow as if it were food or fantasy: dry, sparkling, powder, granular, snow cream, ice storm, dancing snow, flurrying snow.

Our twenty-first century protection against the cold has evolved to a high level, and we think we’ve passed the need to know snow’s makeup. But snow hasn’t changed.  It remains a great equalizer, keeping humans in their place in the natural world. As we flow down glittering slopes on streamlined boards or float over champagne powder on roaring snow machines, our ancient instincts still guide us – hopefully.  We need to respect the unknown depths, the white masses disguising  crevasses, and the mounds of flakes hiding unknown risks between the pines.

Whether inside or outside, rejoice and let it snow.

Do you build a snowman, or would you rather stay in the warmth, sipping hot chocolate?

Spit Out by the Wormhole

I made it through the wormhole and, if my sassy muse did appear, I can’t remember. spiral galaxy

Three weeks later, gallons of anesthesia seep slowly from my brain. My almost revised novel slumbers safely on my external hard drive. As I realize I can’t hurry this healing process, my muse begins to tease me with back stories, plot ideas, and flirtatious phrases. In a way, I’m enjoying the flush of ideas secure in the knowledge I don’t have to do anything (even if I could). I’m free to just enjoy this time with my characters deep in their dangerous and fantastic world.

Flexible goals are key now. Today is the first day I’ve been able to work at my desk. Tomorrow will be the first day I begin writing a daily page. The day after that – who knows?

What are your immediate goals?

Into The Wormhole

Writers often wonder about the source of inspiration. Some people say it comes from dreams, meditations, or the moments of in-between daily life and fantasy.

Could it come from the wormhole of general anesthesia?   According to my brief research at several medical sites, there are many kinds of fancy pharmas used to put you under and several methods of delivery for these drugs. All that is well documented. Even so, no one seems to know how general anesthesia works in the brain. Imagine that. And, even more amazing, the professionals admit it.

When you’re floating below the surface of consciousness, do you dream? The articles I read said no, no one dreams during general anesthesia. Well, maybe not, but how the hell can they tell?

During pre-op, I had an interesting conversation with the intake RN. I asked her if I would dream. She looked at me for a moment, as if gauging my receptiveness.

“I know the experts say you don’t dream,” she said.  “But that’s absolutely untrue. I’ve dreamed during general anesthesia, and I’ve been with patients who didn’t want to open their eyes, mumbling I was waking them from a wonderful dream.” She smiled at me. “Keep one thing in mind, though. When you’re readying for surgery and they push the sedative into your IV, go to the special place you love the most. The way you float into unconsciousness is the way you come out. Go in happy, come out smiling.”

“So,” I asked, “if I go in questioning my muse about the plot for a sequel to my novel, will I come out inspired and full of ideas?”

She grinned. “Maybe. Just keep a pen and paper handy. You’ll want to write those ideas down quickly.”

I still haven’t figured out how to smuggle a pen into surgery, so I just have to hope whatever ideas come to me will find their way to my consciousness later.

They usually do. I’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time, you tell me. What was your most amazing visitation by your muse?


Recently, a writer friend of mine listened patiently as I whined about revision. The  problem is you don’t do any real writing during revision I told her. Revision is a different beast entirely. It is sometimes gentle but mostly it is violent. For me it involves radical slash and burn, touch choices and bold destruction. Removing 6,500 words is stressful. I still have two chapters to go and they need major surgery.

Her suggestion was have a little fun and take a mini-break from revision! Take a scene you never wrote because it didn’t move the story along and write it now. Mix well with clichés and silliness, and let the results flow onto the page. You don’t have to worry, she assured me, because it will never see daylight. It will never be in your novel, and no one but you will ever read it.

I loved this exercise. I knew exactly what scene to write. Suddenly, I had the chance to expose a good, levelheaded MC to opportunities she would never have in the novel. Taking her to the crossroads and watching as she veered down the other path was exciting for her and funny for me. I let my good character behave badly and my evil character spread some cheer –  instead of fear. My wild folks galloped over the top scattering double entendres in every direction. I learned there is always another way to steer a story and, maybe, while the telling is different, the result can be the same.

Exploring the what ifs is liberating. I’m actually temped to have some brave soul read it. Just for fun.

How do you refresh your mind while traveling down the rutted road of novel revision?








I decided to take a quick break from chapter 24 final revision to sneak up on my word count problem. OMG, what a problem.  As I said in Pitched Battle with Revision, my novel isn’t filled with ramblings or flowery descriptions, I just have active characters who can’t stay out of trouble. Their lives filled the pages so quickly that before I knew it I had 120,000 words.

How did I get into this mess? First, I underestimated myself. Who knew my people and my world would have so much to say? Second, my time frame of six months is tooooo long. In most of the light novels I read the action takes place in a week or two. Short time frames keep the writer and the reader focused.

So, now what? Where do I cut to make this story read as if it happened last week?

Let’s face it, traveling across two galaxies should be covered half a page, not four chapters. I want to show my characters at their best and worst in close quarters, but I just can’t spare the words. (I seem to remember worrying about how to keep it interesting as they traveled. I probably should have listened to my little voice.)  So, all the chapters between Earth and their destination have to go.

That leaves another 5,000 words to chop. I don’t want to cut politics or action or sex or romance-oh dear. But, I really want to complete this project sooner than later. Time for ruthless editing. Time to decide what the reader needs to know, what she doesn’t need to know, and what she can imagine on her own.

How does your word count work? Do you use complex planning ahead of time or just keep an eye on the numbers as you write?

Google 6 techniques for Cutting a Novel’s Length-fiction notes for ideas if you’re struggling with just too many of the little buggers.


I love to write. Honest. But, there is an actual life out there beyond our scratching pens and clattering keyboards.

Life is happening in spite of email, cellphones, iPods, Facebook, writer’s forums, revisions, revolutions and the precarious state of our world.

So, here’s my other things to do list:

*Take a day trip to a beautiful mountain home, visit a dear friend, drink sweet tea.

*Garden. The outside world ends at your fingertips when you get your hands dirty.

*Read someone else’s novel.

*Watch HBO.

*Visit your local independent bookstore.

*Grill and chill with your family.

*If possible, go to the beach.



*Listen to music.


Let your mind and body rest. A rested body revitalizes the mind, and a revitalized mind incubates ideas.

How will you reboot your brain?


Lately, I’ve read a lot of comments from fellow travelers on the novel revision trail.

It sure is a rough way to go and a long row to hoe.

But, in spite of the difficult the grind through chapters, there is an undercurrent of joy. Authors just love their characters.

Our characters are like our children. That’s been said to death, of course, but it is true. What is in you comes out in them. Sometimes that fact is alarming, and sometimes it is charming.

One of my favorite scenes in Spear into Darkness includes a magnificent warlord. He has all the attributes of true wickedness – he is devious and brilliant, cruel and bold, big and bad. And, yet, as with many evil people, there was something seductive about the freedom and power he enjoys. It is amazing how appealing he is – in a wonderfully creepy way.

On the other hand, a few scenes later, a teen-aged mercenary rescues the main character. This child soldier, in spite of his own wounds and a difficult language barrier, drags her from a devastated urban battleground and offers her a home among his people . He is so sweet and strong I wouldn’t mind having him as my own kid.

They are both the children of my imagination.

Our challenge as writers is making readers wish our characters were real or be damned glad they aren’t!

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