Looking Back at Robotech

I started out science fiction with Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Then Robotech came.  It wasn’t my first introduction to anime.  That was Speed Racer.  But Robotech was something special.  As a cartoon, it did some things that other cartoons did.  The first was a storyline more befitting a TV show or a novel, not a cartoon.  One of the most shocking things for me at the time was seeing Roy Fokker die, because that just didn’t happen in cartoon land.  Or for that matter, most shows don’t kill off what appears to be a major character unexpectedly like that.

The characters were all fresh and real and complex.  The show had a messy romance between Rick, Lisa, and Minimei, and everyone kept doing stupid things that people do out of love. And it was all interspersed with action.  The storyline encompassed three different generation of characters.

After it initially aired in the U.S., it disappeared for a while.  Came out on video, but it was like two 30 minute episodes per tape, and was quite expensive.  Then it disappeared again and came out DVD.

The stories are still great, but I had trouble with the military aspect.  I think I would have been okay with Rick Hunter’s relationship with a senior officer in his chain of command.  It’s not really supposed to happen, but things like that do anyway.  You put people together in war, and war changes everyone in unexpected ways.

But the writers didn’t seem to have much knowledge of the military whatsoever.  They randomly mixed Army rank with Navy rank and had promotions go from enlisted to officer.  I’m not a stickler for accuracy, but this just felt like no one bothered to even try to understand military rank.  For such a good show, it was disappointing that they didn’t take time to make it feel like they knew what they were talking about.

My First Mystery!

Cover for The Secret in the Old Attic
This is a great cover, promising adventure and danger for our intrepid heroine.

When I was growing up, I devoured all the Nancy Drew novels at my library.  I’d always go to that back corner where they were shelved and scan the yellow spines to see if there was a new book out.  I graduated to other mysteries, like Kim Aldrich, Trixie Beldon, and Phyllis A. Whitney‘s Gothic mysteries.

I also wrote short stories about a girl like Nancy Drew who solved mysteries.  Her name was Sharon McCall, and she was a lot of things I wanted to be: athletic, long, straight hair.  Years later, my mother blurted out that she hadn’t liked “That terrible Sharon McCall.”  This was something she should have kept to herself!

But once I started writing for publication, I veered away from mystery.  I’m not good with details, and mystery is all about the details.  But the ideas class I’m taking is forcing me to put details into the openings that I tended to ignore, as well as look at new forms of inspiration.

So when I saw a photo prompt with a pro rate mystery magazine, I decided to try for it.  I noted three prominent things about the photo and made sure all of those got into the story.

Since the magazine issue has only male writers with about male characters, I did a female character and I also made her a private in the army.  That’s not a type of character everyone else is doing.

By the way, did I mention this story couldn’t be any longer than 250 words?

Of course, this evil little voice keeps saying that the story isn’t right, though it’s never specific.  So I banished that voice and sent the story off.

Photos: Inspiration in Color in Washington DC

I’ve discovered I’m a visual spatial learner

It means I need pictures to understand information.  So when Rabia Gale posted this writing prompt:

A favorite or inspiring piece of art (could be a statue, a painting, a musical composition, even performance art)

The first thing I thought was color

And during spring and summer in Washington, DC, color is everywhere!

The Jefferson Monument against a blue sky
Jefferson Monument

Jefferson Monument

The sharp white lines of the Jefferson Monument against the bright blue sky was magnificent.

A duck sails across a pond that is surrounded by trees.
Ahoy! Ducks away!

Mason District Park

I liked this picture because of the brilliant blue of the water mixed with the reflections of the green trees.  Then there’s that lone duck sailing across the middle of the pond.


Green, green everywhere

After sitting through the dull browns of winter, I still look at the green our trees and go “Wow!”


Flowers Galore

And, of course, the flowers that are everywhere.  I love the striking purple of these.

Other blogs writing about art and inspiration:

  1. Large Blue Horses – Rabia Gale
  2. Christ and St. Michael – Liv Rancourt
  3. The Music that I Love – Siri Paulson
  4. Botticelli’s Venus – Ellen Gregory
  5. Through the Lens – Tami Clayton
  6. How do you decide a favourite – Margaret Miller

Rule P: make writing a Priority

Linda’s Rules of Writing

Abstract image of a woman in profile surrounded by geometric shapes and silhouettes, all in orange and pink.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, and we don’t have to wait for it.

We’re onto the letter P in Linda’s Rules of Writing for the A to Z Challenge, and on the importance of priorities.

I used to wait for inspiration to come, and then I’d write.  What invariably happened was I didn’t do much writing.

In fact, it wasn’t until I had a fight with my former cowriter that I understood that I needed to make it a priority.  We were in submission to agents of our cowritten novel, and I was a little concerned about us learning how to make the tight deadlines publishers have.  I’d been seeing deadlines of a year to write an entire book, and it had taken us a lot longer to do that.

He dismissed it, saying, “Everything is negotiable.”  I had this immediate horrifying vision that I would be the one crashing on the deadline and doing all the work while he blew it off and got half the money and credit.

It made me realize I couldn’t wait for inspiration. I had to make inspiration.

It’s easy to find other things do, so writing has to be at the top of the priority list.

What do you make time for writing?

Rule I – Ideas shouldn’t be intimidating

Linda’s Rules of Writing

Space shuttle launching out of the screen of a pink laptop.
An idea is the launching point of the story, but it’s only the start.

We’re onto the letter I in Linda’s Rules of Writing of A to Z Challenge, with Ideas shouldn’t be Intimidating.

When I was new to thinking about writing professionally, ideas and inspiration were intimidating to me.  It felt like the entire success of the book was bearing down on the weight of this idea, and if the idea wasn’t right, the book would crash and burn.

Maybe that’s why people say, “I’ve got this great idea.  You write it and I’ll give you 50-50.”

Over time, I’ve learned that an idea really is just the starting point, or launch point for the story.  The idea doesn’t mean much unless there’s a good writer to execute it.

My ideas now pretty much come from everywhere, and I think a story is made up of not one — but hundreds.  Some of the ideas emerge of the story, and others are random drive by ideas.  I might be reading a newspaper article and something catches my eye.  Even a placard at a museum can create a possibility that I might use.

So, now I get to ask where do you get your ideas from?

Caption: A to Z Challenge Logo

Tracking Ideas and Inspirations for the Chaos Writer

I’m playing catch up this week — I was at Capclave, a sci fi con in Maryland this weekend.  Now I get all the stuff I didn’t do over the weekend.  I swear, I think Saturday and Sunday is when I run all my errands.  I’ll write a post about Capclave later on.  Meanwhile, back at the Capitol …

One of my writing goals for the quarter is structure.  Not structure like story structure, but outside structure, like organizing papers.  I grew up in a very disorganized house where things were stacked and we only cleaned up when we lost something.  The army was the opposite of that, but their organization never made much sense to me, so when I got out, it was like I exploded back in the other direction again.

But my writing is chaos, but when I let it spread to outside mundane things, it creates disorganization and more chaos that ultimately makes more work for me — and makes it harder to write.  So my goal is focused on finding things that work for me.

The first of these structure things is what to do with ideas.  When I started writing, I kept everything in a pocket notebook that I could carry around me.  Sometimes they ended up on scraps of paper.  Soon they began to breed …

Then they got lost.

Eventually, I turned the notebooks up and was amazed at how many notebooks I had with only a handful of ideas that I had never used stored inside.  Some were more than 20 years old!  So I evolved out of not recording anything because I figured I’d remember it if it was a good idea.

But it’s left me scrambling sometimes when it comes to short story ideas.

So right now, I’m experimenting with using a three-ring binder.  One idea per page, and date it to give it an expiration.  If I’m inspired by a newspaper article, I write the inspiration, not save the whole article.  We’ll see how this works out.

How do you store/track your ideas?

Linda Adams, Soldier Storyteller


Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.


Natalie Markey talks about her first day in Saudi Arabia as a non-Saudi Arabian.  I remember when I saw my first Saudi Arabian women.  They reacted as if I were a strange alien creature.

Finding Inspiration in the Past

When I was in the army, the single soldier always seemed to be an after thought.  There wasn’t much for us beyond the gym, the library, and the rec center.  I used to go to the rec center a lot.  It had a big TV, games, and a place to hang out.  There was always this one guy there, a regular.  He was older than most of the other soldiers there, and I later learned he was a Specialist, retired.  To retire at a pay grade of E-4, which is one level above private, meant something bad had happened. 

Everyone stayed away from him, usually far away.  Because he was lost in his own world, a world of the past, a world of Vietnam.  Things happened in this world, and he talked to people in this world, and he made the sounds of battle in this world.

I thought about him as I started to write a story for an anthology themed “The Darkness Within.”  Soldiers see things and experience things, and sometimes those things are too much.  Twenty years later, I wonder what happened to him.

I never knew his name.

A realistic looking toy soldier crouches on ground and aims a rifle at camera.

Visit my flash fiction story  Sand Dollar Wishes on Writer Unboxed!

Ideas From Interesting Places

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a pretty common question for writers.  There seems to be an awe surrounding ideas, as if that were the hardest thing about the story (newsflash:  It’s the writing part that’s hard).   Here’s how I got the idea for a short story I just finished, called “Junk for Sale, Stories Free.”

At one point I spotted a couple of articles that interested me in The Washington Times.  Since I was at work, I tore out the articles, folded them up, and stuck them in a notebook.  I meant to take out the articles and toss them into my idea box, but I forgot.  About a month later, I happened to have the notebook with me as I was pondering the next project.  I decided the project needed to be fiction because I’m trying to get recent fiction credits for my next round of queries.  Anyway, I’m trying to think of ideas, and I see the folded up articles.  I pull both of them out and read through them.  The first one didn’t do much for me.  The second one was Hyenas Not a Laughing Matter in Ethiopia.  As I reading it,  I misread a single sentence.  That misread sentence led to the story.  A very simple place to find an idea.

The story weighs in at 753 words.  I just got it into the email to a paying publication, so I’ll see what happens.

Deciding What to Write

When I was doing short stories years back, I’d get an idea and pounce on it immediately to try to write it.   Really no thought went into whether the idea was something that I ought to write or if I should write it now.  Then, I quite literally started with the idea, and it decided what I was going to write.

Now, with novels, I do it differently.  For me, it starts with the story, not the characters.  I might have two or three ideas that seem like possibilities, and then I have to figure out what’s going to take the lead.  I start with a couple of ideas and play around with them for a while. I do various summaries for them, trying to get a feel for what direction a story might go.  At this point, the characters aren’t all that important; most will have placeholder names like AUNT or MC (main character).  Eventually one of the ideas starts to gel into something more, and maybe I name the main character.  All of the other characters will still have placeholder names until the story settles in more.  I’ve been looking over my notes for SAND DOLLAR MAGIC (which is going to get a new name), and I can see how the story started out and where it began to break out of the original idea.

How do you decide what to write?