Writing Ideas; Where Do They Come From?

I was recently asked by a writer how to get an idea for his next book. I tried to help. It wasn’t easy.


An idea is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of writing. It is the springboard. It is the rocket ship. It is rarely shared, and the reason is understandable. The creativity the author offers readers comes from him or herself. If it is another’s idea, where is the creativity, the font of inspiration? I remember a TV interview with Steven King years ago when he was asked where his ideas come from. You could see him biting his tongue. His answer was little more than a shrug. On a similar note, pun intended, the great lyricist Johnny Mercer (Moon River and scores of other popular songs) was asked by his father where his ideas came from. JM didn’t know. He said he just tried to achieve peace of mind and let the universe speak to him. Or something like that.


So where do ideas come from? There are as many answers as there are novels. I can cite several recent examples. My novel Waters of Oblivion came from a single statement in an editorial by a ranking Navy officer complaining about the dangers of overcrowded radio wave frequencies and the danger of their use for military data transfer. It was printed in a service magazine; a few words only, not a feature with photographs. Though I read the entire issue, that one line stuck with me. I began researching the topic and found that using light waves for communications was an idea that pre-dated Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. This subject, high-intensity laser beams, became the theme of my novel. This theme was recently awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics.


My newest novel, Wave, was in truth an idea given to me, unsolicited, during a reading with one of America’s leading astrologers in 2017. She told me I should write something about outer space. I’d never even read science fiction, much less written it, but what a challenge. Now, not to contradict myself, but this was an idea for a genre, not an idea for a theme, and ‘outer space’ covers a lot of territory. The subject matter I chose came from a single edition of the magazine Astronomy, gravitational waves. This subject won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics.


Another of my novels, Biohazard Level 4: New Orleans, came from the news. Remember the fear of mosquito-carried viruses a few years back? The book’s theme, genetic mutation and the gene editor CRISPR Cas-9, which I had never heard of when I began the book, has not won the Nobel yet, but it is definitely a contender, and has won almost equally prestigious international awards. My novel Jazz Age Rondo, historical fiction, was inspired by my great-grandparents, European circus performers who were touring San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire. If one can’t find something to write about with the last century, its global wars, its artistic and scientific achievements etc., well, maybe writing fiction is not for you.


And one more, Riding Guts ‘n’ Glory, was inspired by my late son’s involvement with professional bull riding. It is one of the most touching father/son tales you will ever read.


We all have family and friends, and often they are a source of inspiration. So are daily events. So is the life you have lead and experienced so far. I could go on, but I’m trying to say ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. But most importantly, they come from the author. I wish you the best of luck with your writing. The ideas will come.

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Two Out of Three So Far, Jock Boucher and the Nobel Prize

Last month, October, another Jock Boucher novel could claim another accomplishment, another Nobel Prize for Physics. That’s two for three, so far, of the last three Jock Boucher thrillers, all dealing with Nobel Prize subject matter, all written before candidates were announced, much less prizes awarded. The first of these, originally titled Waters of Oblivion, received a Recommended Review from Kirkus Reviews, and utilized as its subject matter in a most ‘thrillery’ manner, the use of high-intensity light frequencies to transmit information. This technology vastly improves security of data communications and will ultimately supersede the use of lower spectrum radio waves, which are insecure, subject to terrorist manipulation, and called the Achilles’ heel of the U.S. military. The thriller was written in 2013. It has taken the Nobel committee this long to catch up, I guess.

In 2017, the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to the scientists credited with the founding of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and the first measurement of a gravitational wave, striking earth from somewhere far in outer space. It is also the subject matter of Wave, the latest Jock Boucher thriller, this one a twist into the realm of science fiction, emphasis on the first of the two word genre description, also written before the award was announced.

A third recent novel Biohazard Level 4: New Orleans will likely be the next Jock Boucher thriller whose subject matter receives the Nobel Committee’s acclimation. It raises concerns, if not the hair on the back of one’s neck, about genetic mutation and the use of the CRISPR Cas-9 genome editor. Though not having been graced with a Nobel Prize for Chemistry yet, scientists around the world are predicting this as just a matter of time, and a biochemist at the Vilnius Institute of Biotechnology recently received participation in the Kavli Prize of One Million Dollars from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for his “seminal advances” with the technology, sharing the prize with the far better known scientists Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, original developers of CRISPR Cas-9.

Hang on Jock. You and the Nobel Prize will soon be three for three. Now, if that’s not a cliffhanger…

Have you read them? Go to my website, davidlyonsauthor.com. You’ll find them there.

And as that robotic voice in one of the James Bond movies said as a nuclear bomb was released by the bad guys, ‘Have a Nice Day!’

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Dear Reader,

I trust those of you who have read my Jock Boucher thrillers will like this new direction. I would like to hear from you. Please leave your remarks in the Comments section of this blog, or through my website, davidlyonsauthor.com. Following are the first few pages. I hope you enjoy them.

David Lyons


This novel is dedicated to all those involved in the NASA program TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. I wish this mission much success, and hope that its discoveries will be steps along the path to converting much of science fiction to science fact.


Escape to Aldiron

A Jock Boucher Sci-Fi Thriller

By David Lyons

From whence had they come? One hundred or more galaxies could have been the source of the binary neutron stars—neither larger than a city—but each weighing more than twice as much as the Sun. Around each other they had revolved for hundreds of millions of years, all the while circling each other in deep space ever faster, ever closer, till spinning at the speed of light, reaching one hundred orbits per second. And as they spun, the pair was drawn to separate partners in yet another cosmic dance; two super massive black holes, also approaching one another, drawn inexorably into an immense union. The collapsed stars spun in one direction as the black holes in the cosmos whirled in yet another till they met, their repulsive forces hurling the twin remnants of stars across eons at a speed beyond measure, till finally they came to an inexplicable halt after an eternal trek across the seemingly endless universe.


Straining against muscle spasms accompanying the terror that had roused him from his troubled sleep, he swung his legs over the bed, sat up and listened to the rustling outside. They were here. He must face them. He could not fight. Fight with what?

Stumbling to the staircase, he gripped the wooden banister, and descended, his shoulders hunched like an old man. Reaching his front door, he opened it and was assaulted by a light far brighter than any he had ever seen, could ever describe. It was blinding, all encompassing. Dazed, he entered its brilliance, drawn from his house onto the stoop, enveloped in illumination and warmth. His legs, muscle, bone and flesh, ceased supporting his body.

And Trevor Phelps collapsed unconscious onto his front steps.


“Hey, I’m walking my dog in the four hundred block of D Street, Northeast. There’s a man sprawled out in front of his house. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. My dog is growling at him; a Doberman Pinscher, not afraid of a damned thing, but he won’t move and I can’t check on the guy. I’ll stay here, but I can’t get any closer.”

The pedestrian closed his phone and stood there. It occurred to him how foolish he’d look if the man just sat up and went inside, but his dog continued growling, baring fangs at the motionless body.

An ambulance turned the corner, screeching to a halt in front of the house. Emergency responders leapt out. They knelt over Trevor, placed the unconscious man on a gurney and rolled him into the ambulance.

“Where are you taking him?” the neighbor asked.

“George Washington University Hospital emergency room. Does he live here?”

“I think so. Don’t know him well. The owner drinks.”

“Ahhh,” they said, confirming their initial assessment.

The ambulance was on its way, the patient still unconscious. One aspect of their preliminary examination while racing to the emergency room was surprisingly difficult to accomplish.

“Mike,” said the paramedic, “he’s breathing and I’ve got a pulse, but I need to see the dilation of his pupils. I can’t get the eyelids open.”


LIGO. As with most acronyms representing the name of a governmental facility—especially one with a scientific function—it was an abbreviation essential for verbal communication. ‘I’m going to LIGO.’ ‘Call LIGO.’ ‘Look what LIGO discovered.’ The two syllables rolled off one’s tongue. Not so the cumbersome moniker ‘Laser Interferometry Gravitational-wave Observatory.’

LIGO could have stood for ‘least interesting government office’ until that morning in 2017, when astrophysicists publicly announced their first recording—which had actually been received months earlier—of a gravitational wave. Some scientists said the wave could have come from a merger of super massive black holes, which had created in an instant more force than fifty times the energy of all the stars in the universe.

This, one of the most enigmatic of all cosmological events, had occurred over a billion years before, and more than a billion light-years away. Using an earthly unit of time to measure a celestial unit of distance? Blame it on Einstein, who envisaged the concept of space-time.

Neil Madison had been present at LIGO on that memorable day. The data was cited as further proof of Einstein’s general relativity theory, which took more time to explain than how this research facility had come into being in the woods of this rural locale, Livingston, Louisiana, twenty-five miles east of Baton Rouge, fifty miles northwest of New Orleans.

After a fortune had been invested in this most sophisticated equipment, the first gravitational wave ever discovered had moved the recalibrated detector arm of the observatory less than the diameter of a single proton, a subatomic particle. Yet this infinitesimal measurement was a stunning scientific achievement. Nobel Prizes would follow. The world news media would fawn. But Neil had noted that the experts, what few there were, ignored the temporizing effect of the incalculable length of time and inconceivable distance traveled, minimizing the potential dangers of gravitational waves. Evidence of their destructive powers had long since dissipated throughout the universe.

The readings registered this morning scared the crap out of him. The interferometer graphic was literally off the charts. Something with enormous force had struck, damaging these delicate measuring devices. He picked up the phone and called the LIGO facility in Hanford, Washington, and then the newest member of the trio in Europe. His readings were confirmed. They’d been duplicated in both of the other locations. Before he could put a pencil to paper, the phone rang and he picked up a call from NASA.

“We’ve got damage to the International Space Station,” the caller said. “They said it felt like an earthquake. In space? They’re using emergency power. We’re going to have to bring them down as soon as we can get a recovery vehicle up there. I’ve talked to just about every radio and optical telescopic observatory I know of and…”

“Why call me? One thing it was not was a gravitational wave. They barely move our detectors when we do catch them, and are far too weak to damage a spacecraft.”

“Well, you guys look for stuff no one can see, right?”

“Yeah, we do that alright. Anyway, I’m glad you called. Our link to the Arecibo radio telescope reports a new phenomenon near Jupiter. It can’t be seen either, emits no light or heat. But that observatory can detect pulsars, electro magnetized radiation from neutron stars. But neutron stars in our own solar system? How many astronauts are up there?”

“Six souls. Are we going to get hit by another one of these things?”

“Hell if I know. Something new is in our neighborhood and we just got its calling card. I’d get your astronauts back as soon as possible.”

“Well, there’s always a Soyuz capsule attached to the space station for emergencies. But whatever hit the launch also damaged the capsule. I called Moscow and they said they’d send up another one, a bit vague on the timeframe though, and we’ve got to get those folks back without delay.”

“Why don’t you call that guy who sends up the supply shipments?”

“Jesse Lake? He builds rocket ships. I don’t know if he has any capsules for astronauts.”

“You might ask him.”

“You’re right, I will. Okay. Thanks. Have a nice day.”


Neil then made another call, this one to a curious office in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., its existence known to few.

“Trevor, this is a heads up,” he said. “I’m calling because I don’t want to put this in an email, not yet. There’s damage to the ISS and they’re going to bring everybody home. We’ve got something near Jupiter. There are no visuals, but the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico is reporting pulsars from what could be binary neutron stars. You know what binary neutron stars are, right?”

“Cores of collapsed stars,” Trevor said, “about the size of a city but twice as dense as our Sun. They can’t be seen because they’ve burned up all their hydrogen and helium. Binary means two.”

“Correct. These newcomers are going to collide, and the explosion will send meteors and gravitational waves our way. Coming from as close as Jupiter, the waves could stretch and compress the shape of Earth as if it were Silly-Putty; and cause seismic shifts that will have our oceans running all over us. But that’s just my personal opinion, and few in the scientific world agree with me. No one believes gravitational waves could reach sufficient amplitude to present a physical danger to us.”

“How did the neutron stars get there?”

“Don’t know. They could be hypervelocity stars, catapulted by the same black hole that sent the waves we recently recorded.”

“But nobody’s actually seen them.”

“Not physically seen. They’re dead, but they’re dangerous.”

“Jupiter is more than 500 million miles away.”

“That’s less than half of one light-year. The wave we detected came from the center of the universe, billions of light-years away, but Jupiter is in our solar system, and if that is where these waves begin their journey… Trevor, keep this to yourself for now. These new stars could be evidence of motion beyond the speed of light; but they may also be nothing more than a bit of undigested beef, a blot of mustard, or whatever the hell Scrooge said after seeing Marley’s ghost. We’ve spent fortunes on our LIGO facilities, and all we’ve really received is a minute vibration moving an arm of our detectors, which are almost two and a half miles in length, less than the width of a hair on your head. I study computer graphs. I’m not about to tell you that the single most basic law of physics, that nothing moves faster than the speed of light, is bunk. And I’m losing sleep about announcing that binary neutron stars are so close to us, I can tell you.”



“You said ghost.”

“A childish metaphor. My daughter’s class is beginning rehearsals for A Christmas Carol. She has the part of Mrs. Cratchet. I practice the play with her in the evenings.”

“You are a good father. Okay. If this information does not reappear, it could have been a ghost, or something like that.”

“No, the binary neutron stars are definitely there. They are each about the size of the meteorite that created our last extermination event, and if they collide, they are going to send debris toward Earth. A teaspoon will weigh millions of tons, and a gravitational wave from that close to us could…”

“Reshape our planet. Got it. Sounds to me like you’ve got some science ahead of you. Please keep me informed.”

“I’ll send you whatever I find immediately. Watch for it.”

“Will do,” Trevor said.


Neil lectured fifth graders on Einstein’s theories of relativity, because it made him a hero to his daughter for one thing, and because he conceived one of his main purposes in life to reduce the theories to an explanation which could be understood by all. He had more than enough time to refine his thoughts. Staring at instruments that measured rare forces from great distances gave one the opportunity to think about such things as time and space, light and gravity. Neil knew his time was short. His daughter Melanie was growing, and by the time she reached thirteen, there would be little likelihood of her being impressed by much of anything her father said or did.

One law of relativity he believed in was the one espoused by that other genius Mark Twain, who as a boy thought his father thick and stupid, but by the time he reached the age of twenty-five, was astounded at how much his pop had learned in the interim. Maybe it was different with daughters.

Studying events from outer space was Neil’s job. This new phenomenon had announced its arrival in a most dramatic manner, and would be well worth his examination. Out of nowhere, or out of somewhere, binary neutron stars had just appeared. How had these interstellar beasts suddenly arrived in our planetary neighborhood? One thing he knew, he needed a more precise word to describe the damage their collision would bring to Earth.

Obliteration. That was close enough.

Explain that to a class of fifth graders.

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Hello, Columbus. Hey, New Orleans.

This will be a short blog. Not much new, it’s a beautiful day in Puerto Vallarta, and I’m going for a walk on the beach. But first… a short story, and then, a heartfelt thanks.

First the story. Ran into some neighbors this week. They told me were talking to a close friend of theirs in Columbus, Ohio; mentioned their new neighbor, me, the fact that I was a published author and that they had recently read several of my books. The friend in Columbus asked,

“Would his name be David Lyons?”

Answer, “Yes.”

“Our Book Club just bought his first book, Ice Fire. We love it. I noticed he lives in Puerto Vallarta.”

So, our mutual friend will ensure that we meet when this reader comes to visit. That’s a short story, but a meaningful one to an author struggling for recognition in the competitive and rapidly changing world of publishing. Hello, Columbus.

Now a heartfelt thanks. I know I’m late to the party, but I have recently tried to increase my activity on Facebook. The response from the good people of New Orleans to this effort has been overwhelming and very much appreciated. I love your town and have visited your city enough times over the years to probably qualify for honorary citizenship – except that such a welcoming status is automatically conferred on everyone who comes to the Big Easy, immediately on arrival. In my imagination, I visit N.O. daily, as it is the backdrop of my Jock Boucher thriller series. No wonder I love writing.

That’s it for today. Have a wonderful week.


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Desultory, a Writer’s Ramblings

Desultory – it’s my word for the day. I was looking for a synonym for rambling, which I knew in advance this blog would be – for reasons I will get around to sooner or later. But I associate rambling with physical movement more than mental gyrations; i.e. rambling rose, rambling boy, etc. I came across desultory, which has always lurked in the high grass of my vocabulary, vaguely familiar, but a word whose gist I gleaned from context, too lazy to look it up. Because desultory sounds like sultry, I probably ascribed a similar meaning. Boy was I wrong. It’s the synonym I sought; right on target. It means inconsistent, disconnected, digressing. What’s really cool is its Latin origin, pertaining to a circus performer who jumps from one horse to another. I thought of ‘saltar,’ which is the Spanish verb for jump, recalling that the language stems from Arabic, Greek and ta-da, Latin. But I digress. Why did I think this blog would be, ahem, desultory? Because I am at this moment procrastinating, which is in itself well, you know. I should be working on my novel. Instead I am writing this fitful gibberish. You see, I’m frustrated. I’m at a turning point in my plot. I’ve been at this turning point for over a week, making my daily word count, but rounding a corner instead of making a 90 degree turn, and the arc is ever widening. I’ve written about 25% of the book – it always astounds me that I know almost to the page how long my unwritten novel will be (note the desultory observation), even though I don’t know how I will end the current chapter. My protagonist is in peril and I need to let the reader know who the bad guys really are and what world-changing chaos they have planned. I’m getting to all that, but along comes a totally unexpected character who is demanding a role in the story, and I like this guy. I like him well enough to make him a future protagonist in his own mystery or thriller. (To me, the difference between the two is the degree to which you imperil your protagonist. Miss Marple rarely faces life-threatening situations in Ms. Christie’s mysteries, while James Bond risks life and genitals to save the planet in Ian Fleming’s thrillers). Enjoying your characters as you write them is one of the great things about creating fiction, but character development is not on the list of sundry topics I’m flitting over in today’s disjointed rumination. So what am I trying to say? Not much. Writing is fun, even escapist, and this little epistle has certainly been that, but writing is also work, and I need to get back to mine. As always, thank you for reading. I’ll try not to be so desultory next time. P.S. I am pleased to say that my latest novel, Waters of Oblivion, the third in the Jock Boucher thriller series, has been called ‘a must read,’ and ‘a great espionage thriller’ by Suspense Magazine. It is available in ebook format through Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo at a special holiday price. To enter my contest to win a new Kindle ebook reader, go to my website davidlyonsauthor.com. Best to all, David Lyons

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