To get in the mood for writing my retro-futuristic romance fiction, I listen to a lot of synthwave. It’s kind of hard to explain if you’re not familiar with the genre, but you’ll know it once you hear it.
Think 80s synth music, but fuller, cleaner, polished and modern, yet with that distinct longing for a distant halcyon era. It’s sometimes described as “nostalgia for a future that never happened”—that’s the kind of future I like to write about.
So grab a cup of tea, a cherry cola, a FIJI artesian water or malted milkshake, and enjoy a little retrofuture love.
10. Let’s Talk — FM-84
One of my all-time favourites, this song captures the sweet sad moods I wanted for Sofia and Alexei in The Only Question That Matters. It’s a story of heartbreak and hope, of flowers that bloom after the rain, a love that perhaps, one day, could be.
9. Time After Time — Gunship
An absolutely sublime cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time by British synthwave band, Gunship. It’s a dreamy take on an already gorgeous track that any 80s nostalgic will fall in love with.
8. Sunset — The Midnight
A touch more upbeat is this great track by my favourite band, The Midnight. It’s fresh, it’s synth-y, and it’s the perfect soundtrack for a rebellious new adult romance vibe.
7. Do It Again — Trevor Something
I had this one on repeat when I wrote It Starts With A Kiss. With such a great balance of optimism, carefree and oh, this moment means everything, it’s the perfect song to steal a kiss to.
6. Crystal Ships — Michael Oakley
Some definite retro throwbacks with this one. I don’t know about you, but I’m picturing an angsty but wholesome 80s teen drama. Teal, pink and mullets everywhere, and a heartbroken guy in a white suit and wayfarers, crooning to a star-studded sky above a Miami shoreline.
5. Nightcall — Kavinsky
Ryan Gosling fans should recognise this Kavinsky track from Drive (2011). It’s been a staple on my playlists for a while. A dumpy-beat sound as sultry as this creates just the right mood for a dark romance or erotica with a touch of danger.
4. Tangled — Le Flex
More synthpop than synthwave, I’ve been told, but it’s all the same to me when we’re talking sweet, crushy romantic feels. This is a pretty song for hopeful heroines/heroes and their cinnamon roll love interests. In space, of course.
3. Girl — Timecop1983
I wasn’t sure whether to include this one, as the lyrics make me kind of sad. But then again, isn’t that what celebrating nostalgia is all about? I think the best description I’ve ever read of this track went something like this: “a dreamy pop song that dials up the celestial and serves up heaping spoonfuls of uplift.” (source)
2. Your Love (September 87 remix) — Droid Bishop
Beautiful and dreamy. This is the song you’d make out to with your special person as your survival pod enters the gravity well of the nearest habitable planet, the two of you making the most of this quiet time before you’re rockside and searching for your shipmates.
1. Run Away With Me — Moonrunner83
Finally, let’s leave off with this beauty of a track. Now pop your varsity jacket on, hop in my spaceship, and we’ll fly towards the neon sunset. Our HEA awaits us at the edge of the galaxy 😘
I cannot get enough of this song. thru the night </3 by Menend is a steamy freakin’ 18-minute track that somehow keeps the bittersweet heat up all the way through. Have a listen, tell me if you love it too 🔥💗🔥
CampNaNoWriMo was a success. And by that, I mean The Dragon’s Den WIP is finally in a usable first draft state. It still needs so much research and revising before it’s even close to becoming a book, but I was very happy anyway and celebrated with a couple of new videogames (tell you about them in a tick).
The Basilica Conspiracy
The Dragon’s Den is book 2 of The Basilica Conspiracy, a sci-fi/retrofuture mini-series that follows the development of Rhys and Adria’s romantic relationship after they accidentally stumble on some business they weren’t supposed to see.
The first book, Chasing Sisyphus, came out in 2017 and while book 2 should have started as soon as book 1 was finished, now that I’ve reached this point in the WIP, I realise I just wasn’t ready to write The Dragon’s Den back then. The story was too complex, character motivations too intense, and my writing nowhere near strong enough to tell the story needing to be told.
But I’m ready now…I think. And after a short break, I’ll be starting the first proper revision of The Dragon’s Den as well as the first draft of book 3, Sins of the Other.
Sunset on a Distant World
…is back on the worktable after almost a year of sitting in a box. There are a lot of problems with the first draft, but a lot of interesting ways to fix them. There is a plan for this book and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you when it’s done.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the revision process for It Starts With A Kiss, as there’ll be more where that came from. “Shop talk” is a new category of content I’ll be sharing in my newsletter and on this blog, talking about writing craft, mindset and “the trade”. I know most of you also write, so I hope you’ll find the information useful in your own creative endeavours.
So, the writing I started “for no reason” ended up as short story, Playing Trades. This 2000-word piece was sent out to my dear readers in the April/May issue of Dot Club, and has since been accepted into Crystal L. Kirkham‘s Where the Sun Always Shines Anthology, coming out soon.
There’s a new microstory going into next month’s newsletter. If you’d like to see it, you can subscribe on my website.
Oh, and I gave up on “MOAB”. About two-thirds of the way through, it stopped feeling right, so back in the box it goes.
Projects (still) on hold
Project D (yep, there’s another unnamed project floating around)
There’s a lot I can’t control right now, but also a lot that I can. Getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day is one of them. Drinking 2L of water a day is another. I still slip sometimes, but for the most part, minding these two things sets me up to be able to do other things. Like exercising and catching myself before I get too emotionally invested in ignorant hot takes on Twitter. Everyone handles stress differently, and where I can help it, I’m trying not to let some stranger’s stress tantrum become the reason I have one too 😅
Other self-care activities that have helped a lot:
Moisturising my forearms… Maybe I have a sensory thing going on, but supple forearm skin seems to be a real mood lifter 🤔
Nice smells. I’ve burnt all my smelly candles, but found a tiny vial of peppermint oil on a cluttered shelf, so we’re all candy cane country this month!
Curating my feeds. Nuff said.
Forgotten Storm by A. R. Vagnetti, after longingly staring at the paperback on my shelf for months.
True Refuge by Annabelle McInnes—I had to stop this one, as the incredibly powerful first chapter moved me more than I was ready for. But I’m ready to come back now.
With my short story, The Induction of Satine, releasing next month, I thought I’d share some character work for the eponymous heroine, Satine Luna.
One of my favourite thinking games is the casting game, where you imagine a beloved book as a movie or tv show, or a beloved movie remade or rebooted, and set up your own cast of actors. I play this game a lot when imagining characters for my stories. Even a very short story like Birdwatchers gets the brain treatment, though to a lesser extent than a novella like Chasing Sisyphus.
I’m currently loving Emma Stone as my model for Satine. She has those sly facial features that would easily typecast her as a thief. I quite like the look of Rhianna, Vivian Hsu and Olivia Wilde as well, for different variations of this character.
Since putting pen to paper, I’ve had a very strong image of her in my head. Red hair, green eyes, smooth skin, lips that taper off in sharp corners on the edges of her mouth. But note, you won’t find a description in this book. I left it out on purpose, because it’s inconsequential to the story. If there are more stories in future, maybe it’ll come up then, but for now, dear reader, Satine is yours to style (assuming I haven’t ruined it for you already).
Entirely through fault of her own, our brainy yet misguided vixen finds herself running with the infamous thieves’ guild, the Night Foxes, stealing trinkets and secrets from rich people. Until one day — no spoilers — she gets caught. That’s where our fun begins.