Down the Rabbit Hole

Ever notice how authors know so many random things about a lot of stuff? That’s because in order to create conceivable worlds, we need to know how those worlds work. That’s where the whole an author only writes 10 percent of the iceberg thing comes from. You need to know so much on the back end in order to write a realistic setting. Learning all that can inform other stories down the line and even if it doesn’t, it makes for a bunch of random facts for the back pocket.

For instance, did you know that after the passing of the Metropolitan Police act in 1829, constables’ uniforms had stiff collars to avoid strangulation as they were definitely not a welcome sight around the city? Because thanks my research for The Red Door, I do.

To help put this in perspective, you’ve probably heard stories about getting lost in Wikipedia or falling down rabbit holes on the internet. One search leads to another leads to another and so on …

Story creation works that way too. Let me give you an example.

I’ve talked a little about this before, but my new story all started because I wanted to do something with a deep sea diver. OK, when did they do hardhat diving with a breath line? Well, the Navy still used the Mark V helmet up through WWII (I had to learn that …).

Well, I don’t want to use that time period, but I like the idea of a soldier, so how about after WWI?

OK. It ended in 1918.

Well, I don’t want it to be RIGHT after, so let’s push it back to 1919.

Great. Where?

Well, my protagonist has seen enough battle. He wants to settle somewhere idyllic for a while. Oh and there needs to be water.

How about the Mediterranean Sea?

That sounds good. Lots of history there. I can base him in Greece.

What was Greece’s role in WWI? How would the react to an American fisherman living there now? If he’s a diver, he’ll need a tender, probably a local, so was this guy in WWI as well? Also, in 1919, Greece was gearing up to fight another war against he Turks and his tender would be involved with national sympathies and …

See what I mean? You make a couple of decisions and the threads just start appearing. Do I need to explain all of this in my own work then? Absolutely no, but I need to understand the interplay and relationships because its all going to inform what I write.

It’s been fun doing the research. I was just reading something about sunken treasure ships which lead me to Egyptian ports which lead me to trade routes and the list goes on.

I may have directed this journey, but remember it all started with me wanting to do something with deep sea diving and it spun out from there.

To me, that’s what makes storytelling so much fun. Yeah, it’s a lot of work putting all these pieces together, but change just one facet and the entire story changes. That’s why, the last time I tried this, I got from the Marianas Trench to spaceships.

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Alpha

It’s been quite a while since my last post. Two four month old babies, too much work and not enough sleep will do that to ya …

Anyway, I’ve finished my latest novel, Fairfax Cleaners, and I’m pretty damned psyched about it. Yes, I know I’m biased, but I think it’s my best work yet. To this extent, I went ahead and made a Facebook post asking for alpha readers.

The responses were overwhelming. I expected my brothers and a couple of close friends of course, but some of the people who “signed” up for the job, I haven’t spoken to since college! The prospect that so many people are reading my work is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I sincerely doubt, that all of them are going to give me pats on the back with “it’s so awesome” comments. But that’s kind of the point.

Throughout my time writing these past couple of years, the input of my brothers has been invaluable. Even my mom reading most of my stuff has kept me going, but come one, she’s my mom. She has to say that stuff. If I really want to make this one work and I firmly believe that this is the book that’ll sell, well then I definitely needed some outside opinions.

I’ve always been interested in being part of a writing group. I was in a group as part of a class in college and really enjoyed the feedback and critiquing process. Once in a while, that itch comes back and I look into it, but it seems that if I want to be in something, I need to start that something. Short of a posting a blind ad on Craigslist, I don’t know how to 1. Make this happen and 2. Hope its not answered by whackjobs.

I’m actually going to send a follow up email to everyone today just to see how its going and to ask a couple introductory questions. Out of the 13(?!) people who responded, I doubt they’re all reading it now anyway, but any feedback is appreciated. Actually, the only feedback I’ve received (aside from my mom, of course) was a critique that my protagonist was carrying the wrong gun around. Well, what can I say, the guy was right. See? That’s why I’m doing this.

It’s so weird having people interested in my work. That’s also a point I’m working to get over. To be a commercial author, people kind of have to be, right? I tried to put the book in the hands of a broad spectrum of people, but I know I’m the connecting piece here, so I’m hoping for some diverse viewpoints. That said, there are definitely some in there who I never expected and those are the ones I’m most interested in hearing from again.

It’s hard to concentrate on anything else while this is going on, but I’ve started some initial brainstorming and research for my next project. A great thing about living in a college town and working at a university is the free access to resources. Although, I have reading lists at both the public library and the big one here on campus that include such titles as: Without Conscience and Psychopath Whisperer, so who knows how long that access is going to last!