Thanks Bob!

Now that I’ve completed the first draft of my manuscript for Vestal, and completed the requisite three days of mental rest required after such feats, I’m permitting myself to move forward with planning for Book Three. It’s seemed that Book Three is all I’ve been able to think about the last couple months. I was working on Vestal–scribbling, scribbling, howling, scribbling–but my mind was wandering the Amazon, working out the intricacies of tribal life in my young adult fantasy novel. I tried, with mediocre success, to retrain myself, and refused to devote any time to Book Three until Vestal was properly fleshed out.

Now that I’ve finally freed my mind from such restrictions, I’ve found that it’s running mad with glee, bouncing from the subject of weapons to the question of naming systems to the difficulty of finding a map of the Amazon that meets my needs. It’s a little frustrating, but utterly joyful to be so excited about a project. I do love writing, but there’s something so exquisite about piecing it all together before the writing begins, about knowing that each day I’m going to discover something new about the world I’m trying to create and the characters that populate it.

Because that’s how it feels. It’s not a problem I’m trying to solve, so much as something I always knew, in the back of my head. Yesterday I realized that my protagonist doesn’t have a name. It made everything a lot simpler, while opening a new world of possibility.

Still, there’s a lot more that I need to know and understand before I can begin writing. These are the subjects I’m currently researching:

* The Amazon River. I need to know everything. Size. Plant and animal life in and near it, etc.

* Roller derby. I’m appropriating roller derby culture as an integral aspect of Book Three, incorporating as much of it as I can into my fantasy world.

* Incan knowledge of astronomy and constellation myths.

* Geodes.

* Dams. How they’re built. How they impact landscapes, waterways, and people’s lives, etc.

* Boats.

The latter is particularly difficult for me. I’m the type of person who needs to see something in order to understand it. And the question of what type of boat my protagonist would be primarily using while paddling down the Amazon is essential to the story. She spends the majority of her time in this vessel so it needs to be practical for a teenaged girl to utilize alone and in wildly different water conditions.

Fortunately, people tend to be pretty happy to share their knowledge. I contacted Bob Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 11.35.18 AMHoltzman, who maintains the blog “Indigenous Boats: Small craft outside the western tradition” after running a standard Internet search and coming across his blog. In fact, as I read the blog, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the subject of indigenous boats, making it difficult for me to settle on a single vessel.

I emailed Bob and explained my dilemma. I needed a vessel that could a) be constructed and utilized by a single, young girl and b) navigate all possible conditions posed by a river as immense as the Amazon, including rapids, water with very little motion, flooding, etc. He promptly replied that a dugout canoe (aka logboat) was probably the best vessel, and provided a list of reasons as to why it suited my criteria as well as a list of alternative options with a brief explanation as to why he had initially ruled them out. And an offer of additional information regarding the construction and use of the vessel I ultimately decided upon.

It’s immeasurably gratifying to know that there are people in the world–complete strangers at that–willing to share the store of knowledge they’ve devoted so much time and energy to acquiring. This information moves me light years ahead in my information-gathering phase, and I feel more comfortable knowing that my information has been vetted by someone who actually knows what he is talking about. Of course, the fact of someone being so eager and willing to share their knowledge will bolster my courage when it’s time to go searching for the answers that are as yet unresolved. Questions about dams and roller skates and rocks.


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