“Honey, Could You Help Me With Something?”


I was the guest of a book club earlier this week.  They were very excited to meet “a real author”, so for the first little while, the conversation was all about how amazing it was that I’d written a whole book, and what a good story it was.  Which is lovely, of course – everyone likes a little positive attention now and then.  Eventually the topic turned to the book itself.  Except for one, the ladies of the club weren’t fantasy readers, so Mad Kestrel was unknown territory for them.  To my relief, they all said they’d enjoyed the story, and started asking the usual questions – how long did it take, how much did it cost to publish (ha ha!), and so on.

We eventually got to the subject of research.  When I was working on the story, I read a great deal, and visited historic sites, even went on a couple of Pirate Walks in Charleston, SC.  I spent time with pirate reenactors, to hear how they talked and what they talked about.  I listened to shanties while I worked.  I wasn’t trying to make my book historically accurate, just trying to capture a flavor.  But that wasn’t the only kind of research I did.  I also used my husband and son to help me visualize action scenes.  For a while, fights were difficult for me to write, because I’d reach the climax of the conflict and realize, Hey, his elbow can’t be bending that way! or She’d need three legs to kick him like that.  So I’d ask my husband and my son to slowly block out the scene as I read it.  I could see where the blows were landing (or not) and what I needed to change.  Just last week I acted out a scene myself with him, because I needed to know how much freedom of movement Kestrel might have if her arm was pulled up behind her back.  I’m a visual learner, so this method works for me like nothing else can.

One day during the writing of Mad Kestrel, I was absolutely failing to make sense of a scene.  Kestrel was running from soldiers, had an injured shoulder, and needed to jump down from a low roof (with a sword at her side) to make good her escape.  Having suffered plenty of ankle injuries in my time, I knew she shouldn’t jump straight-legged.  But for the life of me I couldn’t imagine how it would look if she leaped and rolled.  Once again, here came the husband to help.  He strapped one of our replica swords on his belt, climbed onto the roof of my Chevy Blazer, and leaped off four or five times, hitting the ground rolling.  We learned that it would be better to let Kestrel drop the sword down first, but tucking into a roll position that protected the bad shoulder was easily accomplished.  And once he’d let me see how it looked, I could write it.

So what crazy things have you done (or thought about doing, or strong-armed your family into doing for you) in order to rev up what you’re writing?


11 comments to “Honey, Could You Help Me With Something?”

  • Kirby

    Now, that was an entertaining blog p Y

  • michelle in colorado

    Well I liked it. It was a fun book.

  • I wish they would do something like that!

    Right now, I usually end up in the basement of my house (where the computer is) with things like broom handles, mad concentration on my face as I thwart invisible blows. It earns me a lot of strange looks, but I think they’re mostly de-sensitized by now…

    That’s not to say that I haven’t forced random family members to model for me for a minute or two on drawings, however. But then, that they can understand more easily.

  • I allowed a slightly drunk cop to do a take-down on me.
    Not what you think. Mind out of the gutter, guys.

    A one handed take down involved him grabbing my right hand and bending it backward (hard-freaking-hard-ow-ow-ow) until I was on the gound, crying.

    Even when I was on the ground I told him I could kick him in the…um…privates. I demonstrated. He revised his takedown. More ows… But it was a very good scene.

    Then there is the loooong learning curve for kayaking. I took 2 miles of the Catawba, at Landsford Canal schols, 2 times today, once at 2500 CFS and then at a foot higher… I *loved loved loved* it!

  • I attended drug and alcohol rehab sessions with someone I know so I could research how people feel while using drugs and how they conquer the drug. It was quite enlightening.

  • emmanuel asiamah

    i need some magical words to conjure mooney

  • And here I was, for the past 3 years, thinking it was the prolonged positioning at the computer causing them (Misty & Faith) to require so many Massage Therapy sessions…..silly me.

  • I act out scenes in my office, using a walking stick as a sword and rolling around on the floor and such like an idiot. I try to do this when no one else is in the house, but I’ve been found out by my kids a couple of times. Kind of embarrassing.

  • I bet the kids love it, David.
    The old man has fun. Kinda like Peter Pan.
    It has to make their own imagination feel okay.

    My dad was very sports oriented and did things on the lake with us *every* blasted weekend from May 1 to Oct 1. But he had (and still has) no imagination. I envy your kids. Really.

  • Hey, David, next time they catch you swordfighting with the stick, make them come in and play roles. The Beetle loves it!

    I forgot to mention that when the husband was leaping off the Blazer for me, I saw my neighbors peeking out their windows. I don’t really know them, so we never talked about it, but I’ve often wondered what they imagined was happening…