Sunday, September 24, 2017

Down the research rabbit hole we go.

One of these days, I'm going to finish the research for a book before I start writing the first draft. I used to be really good at that. Not so much any more.

One problem is that I'm starting to run out of locations I've lived in. Even places I've visited and liked well enough to set a story there are getting thin on the ground. So I have to rely more on research for details about the places where I want to set the story. Take the book I'm writing now -- Maggie at Moonrise

By the way, I need to clarify something. I've been calling this third book of the Transcendence trilogy Maggie in Moonlight, and I realized the other day that's wrong. My original concept was to show, with the titles, something of the progress Maggie makes in her journey from a woman with a lot of baggage to someone who's capable of renewing the Earth. At Moonrise fits the concept better -- and it's actually the title I intended to use to start with. So henceforth, Book 3 shall be known as Maggie at Moonrise.

Anyway, I knew that in this book, Maggie was going to need to hit the road to see two of her children: Emily, who lives in the Los Angeles area; and Tim, who lives in Mexico City. The trouble is that I have very little acquaintance with either locale. I've been in L.A. exactly twice. The first time, I was in high school and on vacation with my parents. We drove up from San Diego and stayed in an RV park that had orange trees at every campsite -- pretty exotic for a family from Indiana. It wasn't until the next day -- a Sunday -- that I realized we'd stayed across the freeway from Disneyland, and moreover, my father didn't intend to stop there. He wanted to get through L.A. as quickly as possible, and on a Sunday morning when traffic would be light. But c'mon, Disneyland!

My father's been dead for more than 30 years, and yes, I'm still holding this against him.

My second trip to L.A. was when my friend Kim lived in near Santa Barbara. Unfamiliar with L.A. sprawl as I was, I assumed that if I flew into LAX on a Friday, she could come and pick me up, drive back to her place, and we'd have a lovely weekend before she drove me back to catch my flight home on Sunday. Yeah, no. It turned out out it's three hours one-way from her house to LAX, and she was not willing to spend twelve hours on the road in the space of three days. So we got a hotel room near the airport, did the Getty Museum, and went to Redondo Beach. She still gives me a hard time about my 36-hour trip to L.A.

Anyway, I basically had no idea about where anything was in L.A., so I put out a call for information on Facebook. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions and set me straight on my misconceptions.

Mexico City was another challenge. I minored in Spanish as an undergrad, but I was more interested in Spain at the time -- so although I knew bits and pieces about Mexico, there was a lot I didn't know. In addition, ancient Native cultures are a big thing in this series, and while I'd learned something about the Aztec pantheon to flesh out the character of Jack Rivers in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I'm reaching farther back for Maggie's story -- to Teotihuacán.

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Like ancient sites around the world, from Stonehenge to Cahokia to the Newark Earthworks, no one knows who built Teotihuacán. Construction on the pyramids began around 200 BCE, and eventually the city was home to 125,000 people. It was sacked and burned around 550 CE, and abandoned about a hundred years after that. Centuries later, when the Aztecs stumbled across the ruins, they considered Teotihuacán sacred -- maybe built by giants. They adopted many of the gods and their imagery from the site and incorporated them into their own bloody religion.

Teotihuacán is now a national archaeological site -- and as at Cahokia, new discoveries are still being made there today. And now that I've done so much reading about Teotihuacán, I'm putting it on my bucket list. But unlike Maggie, I am not even thinking of driving there.

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Speaking of Maggie at Moonrise, I'm making good progress on the first draft. I'm about 45,000 words in. This one is likely to be a tad longer than my usual 50,000 words -- I have about four important scenes left to write. But I'm still hopeful that I'll have it done by the first or second of October. Maybe by this time next week, I'll be able to call it done. 

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These moments of uncharted blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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