So, I’m tinkering with this action mystery while writing a few short stories and suddenly the sequel hits me hard. I mean the ideas start rolling in and I can’t stop them. Down goes the first story entitled Alpha (for the moment), and up comes Beta (due out from Echelon Press July 15).
So I’m tinkering with Beta and one night I’m listening to a nationwide radio show called Coast to Coast AM. I stumbled onto the show years ago while working overnights. The host and his guests discuss all sorts of supernatural stuff, UFOs, Bigfoot, science, conspiracy theory, etc. One of the programs dealt with people’s encounters with shadow beings. Something clicked and I thought, “What if I have a madman use an ancient book to release killer shadow creatures into our world?” My homicide detective’s name and character quirks came first then the FBI agent’s soon followed.
I think the most fun part was the research for the project. Since Night Shadows is set in Des Moines, I interviewed various people and visited several locales. The Des Moines and the Windsor Heights police departments were wonderful assets. I enjoyed visiting several parks and neighborhoods for realistic descriptions. In the story, I wanted to use areas familiar to the locals.
I encountered two problems before I finished. The first minor problem was during my writing Night Shadows, the city completed a major street reconstruction project and all but wiped the small block I had been using for the madman’s house. The street I want to use still exists (sort of), as is the cemetery across the street mentioned in the story. I think I worked around the problem quite well by just ignoring it and instead of keeping everything as is, I kept everything as was.
The second problem I struggled with for months before a friend provided an answer. I needed a portal to another dimension through which the shadows emerge. I looked at several areas around Des Moines, including a large piece of art downtown, various corners and stairwells in the skywalk system, even the aforementioned cemetery. Nothing seemed good enough. Then another member of my critique group mentioned an art exhibit in one of the Principal buildings. She set up a tour and when we entered this one particular room set aside for the exhibit, I knew I had found my portal. So, when you read Night Shadows, keep in mind, the room and the ‘portal’ exist. Whether the exhibit actually is a doorway to another dimension, well, that’s something to be discovered later.
I think one of the beautiful aspects of writing is authors can create anything. From anything. If you want a motorcycle to travel 300 miles per hour, a sword fight in the middle of a parking garage, or a police call box be a time machine, you figure out how to make it work. The imagination is boundless. And to discover what is around the corner is so fascinating. Writers help people escape.
I cannot remember from where I heard this saying, probably from some Saturday morning cartoon break, but “Reading is fundamental.” I never understood the meaning behind this until I started reading, then further when I started writing. Reading took me to places I’ll never visit, took me on adventures I never wanted to end.
Writing gives me a chance to give those experiences to someone else.
PS. Look for a Night Shadows contest tomorrow at my blog and website.