Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Honest to God, that's going to be in the dedication of the Galveston steampunk I'm still working on.

Thanks to Google and a host of other sites, I've been able to find all the info I need to construct an alternate history of the Spanish discovery and colonization of Galveston and their other holdings in New Spain. I never had to go to a library, and I never had to go to Galvestion. (I do go to Galveston, actually, whenever I can - I've loved it since I was a child. But I don't need to have access to  documents and photographs there because everything I need, I've found online.)
I used the Internet heavily while I was writing Yours Mine and Howls, because I've never set foot in CaƱon City, Colorado, the town on which Fremont is based. But between Google Maps and Fremont County's many excellent tourism and real estate sites, I was able to construct a believable setting.
Now I'm writing two contemporaries at the same time, which is daunting. Not the two-books-at-one-time thing -- that's actually easy, given my ADD  -- but the contemporary thing. I'm writing real people, with human strength and human frailties and human sexual organs and all that. So I have to make sure someone remembers to bring the condoms (werewolves neither contract nor spread STDs.) And if the heroine gets in trouble, the hero can be able to beat someone up, or pull a gun to defend her, but he won't be able to rip the bad guys to pieces and eat them (which really is a useful skill to have in a hero.) And no one has any supernatural abilities that can come in handy in a tough spot, like a photographic memory or the ability to transport yourself from one spot to another.
Besides just keeping my characters within the limits of human beings, though, I want to make sure they'e believable. I want 3D people with real flaws and real problems and real jobs and lives. And I've been particularly obsessing over the heroine of one of my WIPs, who is a skilled session/touring musician and songwriter. Her main instrument is the fiddle. ("I can play the violin, but most of the time when I play it, it's a fiddle. Way more country than classic. I do a lot of Celtic and folk stuff, too, but still -- that's fiddlin'. Violinists wear heels, and their audiences are usually sitting down. That's not my thing.")   She also does rock and pop, and I got to wandering if I'd invented a type of person who doesn't exist. Are there female fiddlers who work as session and backup musicians, and do they work across musical genres?
Well, I don't know if there's a lot of them, but I found at least one. She's hot, as both in demand and real good lookin' : (My heroine is a redhead, though.)
I found Emily Autumn through this excellent page devoted to the fiddle in rock music.
Then there's Sara Watkins.
Of course, Alison Krauss is a high profile fiddler but she's mostly bluegrass, notwithstanding the great stuff she's done with Robert Plant. (Although she was a prodigy, like my heroine. Alison got her first recording contract at 14.)

And there's Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks, who've now officially broken up. (I hope she and Emily do something else.)
So yeah, my idea of a gifted fiddler with a talent for other instruments and for songwriting is completely believable. 

But there was one other aspect of her personality that I came up with years ago, when the character first started popping into my head looking for a boyfriend. She was a child prodigy, and the country legend who gave her her first big break, when she was just a teenager, gave her her most prized possession as a gift for her 21st birthday: a fiddle that had once belonged to Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing.  

(Here, listen to Waylon explain it:)

Now, I had no idea if any of Bob Wills' fiddles were identified and floating around out there. I knew there was a Bob Wills museum in his hometown of Turkey, Texas, way up north in the bottom of the Panhandle.
So I'm engaging in a little research procrastination when I come across this heartwarming story: 40 Years Later Fruita Fiddler Bows Instrument Once Owned By Bob Wills (Note: Fruita is in western Colorado.) My favorite detail about this story? The fiddle still smells of Wills' cigar smoke. And you better believe that's going to find its way into my story.
I don't know why I worry so much about getting details right, even when it's something I'm making up entirely out of my head. Maybe it's because I get so annoyed when characters in books (not just romance, but any kind of fiction) supposedly have certain jobs or careers but behave in ways totally unbelievable. My big peeve is lawyer heroines who go around violating ethical precepts and ABA disciplinary rules, as well as ignoring every rule of federal procedure and usually committing a couple felonies to boot, as they sleep with/run away with/collude with/defend/attack the con man, attorney, billionaire, cop or renegade mercenary they're in love with, you know? If you're going to give your character a specific line of work, and it's not a line of work with which you're familiar, then either talk to someone who knows about it or, you know....look it up on the Internet.
My hero required no research. He's a rock star. The danger of writing rock stars is not that you'll go too far, make them do things too outrageous; it's that you'll make them too tame, too sane. (Seriously. Consult the autobiographies of Slash, Duff McKagan, Nikki Sixx, Ray Davies, etc. if you doubt this.)

Some of the most disgusting depictions of alcohol abuse I've ever read. This guy shouldn't be alive, and he knows it.
Sometimes I take it to extremes. I pester Crista McHugh, my doctor writer buddy, about how a body would look and feel after being in a hospital and on a respirator for 2 weeks.

I pester my husband about how much you can really pack into the saddle bags of a Honda Goldwing. 
My hero does not pop wheelies on his Goldwing. That's beyond douchebaggery.

And I learned something new about the Hub - apparently, back when the Goldwing was his sole means of transportation, he sometimes rode with his shotgun strapped across the bike's handlebars.

I have no idea why this was necessary. I don't think it's gonna fit in the book.
I also quizzed the Hub about SUVs -- specifically, what were the biggest SUVs available around 10-15 years ago. With four wheel drive - that was important. And he'd name a make and model, then say - "Wait. I don't think they offered 4WD until 2010," and I'd say, "Well, then I can't use it."
And he'd say - "Do you really think a reader's going to notice something like that? Or care?"
And I thought about it and I decided - probably not. I've seen some very, very picky readers, and I've read reviews by people who took exception to the smallest, most seemingly insignificant mistakes of fact or history. If a reader is going to check on the makes and models of SUVs available in 2000 while reading my book, then obviously my story isn't holding her attention, or else she's got issues which have nothing to do with me, right? 
Just to be safe, though, I decided the band bought a used Chevy Bronco in 2000. They were in production from 1992 to 1996.
Thanks, Wikipedia.

1 comment:

Kelly Jamieson said...

Check out local girl (Local for me!)
Sierra Noble