Monday, December 30, 2013

Surf's Up

Dropping down the barrel
Beginnings should be memorable, epic, legendary. Are you stoked by these epic surfing photos? A storm developing among the cerulean waves adds to the adrenaline rush I gave my protagonist in the opening scene of my new novel Free Runner.

Air time
The story progresses from SoCal to London. In my last blog entry, I presented an argument for Chicago's similarities to London. Now, I direct your attention to Southern California. The raw beauty of the ocean evokes emotions in the caverns of my memories. When I was in junior high, my family moved from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast of Florida. I stood in the knee deep water as if under a magical spell, watching the surfers in the ocean. My Main Character's first love is surfing. Yes, even at the tender age of fourteen, he can participate in the surfing circuit and dreams of attaining pro-status someday. 

The surfer's guide to correct surf jargon can be found in the Riptionary at Riptionary.com. I posted this on twitter once. I cracked myself up for days. I find surf lingo addictive and fun, especially when used in conversations with my teenage sons. The surfer rides the barrel or the tube with the crest over his head, the high point of a wave. His board is attached to his ankle or calf with a special tubing called a leash. This keeps the surfer and the board connected so they don't get lost at sea.

"The World's 50 Best Surf Spots" is featured on travel.cnn.com/explorations/play/worlds-50-best-surf-spots-250983. The Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii--the most dangerous surf locale in the world--sits at the number one slot followed by Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa; Bali, Indonesia; and the Gold Coast, Australia. Number 5 on the list is California. They (meaning some crazy dude out in the middle of the ocean) calculated one wave to be over 25 meters. That's approximately 82 feet. They (the experts) recommend you bring two things with you: a jet ski (to reach those gnarly waves) and life insurance (in case you don't). If any of those spots are out of your reach or out of your budget, you can always try the Maldives or Cloud Nine at Siargao Island in the Philippines. Cloud Nine with its jagged coral covering the shallow waters seems to indicate something different--the amount of trips to the ER, the amount of staples in your head after a visit, or maybe the amount of broken bones a surfer may acquire.

The first chapter of my book transports the reader straight to the MC's world: surfing, sand and endless sun. Forced to exchange his SoCal life for landlocked London, he leaves everything behind and must embark on a journey that will change him forever. I follow Surfing Magazine, Surfing Life and a few SoCal surfers on Instagram for my daily inspiration. Go catch a gnarly tube, avoid Cloud Nine, and always Hang Ten. I know you're anxious to learn how this surfer enters the world of free running and parkour in my debut novel, but you don't have to wait long. Mark your calendars for January 15th--FREE RUNNER's release date.
#amwriting #research #surfing #freerunning #debut #novel #MondayBlogs

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicago vs London: The Art of Research



Mystic Blue-Chicago
Perhaps the most fun a writer can experience remains only a click away. With the Internet today, there are no limits to an author's passport. Researching people, places and things to add to my new novel, Free Runner, turned into a man-hunt. "Who or what will I uncover today?" My past experience in the classroom also became another source for my research. World History and Geography trumped all other subjects I taught while Great Britain became my most anticipated unit. We also explored Australia, Spain, Italy, France and Greece along with each country's unique foods, quirky customs and weird traditions.OK, I admit, I transformed into a world traveler (in the classroom) and a research junkie. I hosted classroom parties, dressing up in native clothing and sampling exotic foods. I even planned art projects around each country.

It's no surprise that England made the top of my list when prepping for places to put on display in my novel. No, I've never stepped foot in England, Ireland or Scotland. I do have ancestral roots in Ireland. My grandmother was Irish--hence the red hair. I begged my parents in high school to let me be a foreign exchange student to London. That never happened.

I will start with one of the first places mentioned in my novel: the National Gallery. This free museum is located right next to Trafalgar Square in London. The main character's dad lands a photography dream job, working for the Gallery. My first instinct led me to research this place to see if they displayed anything other than famous paintings like van Gogh's Sunflowers or Rembrandt's self portrait. BINGO. Last December 2012 the National Gallery hosted their first ever photography exhibit.This plausible idea for my new novel and the merging of the Gallery's priceless art with photography became the driving force behind Free Runner. The reader will be taken to many more landmarks throughout London: St. Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye and Her Majesty's Theater.

My obsession with all things Chicago (and the internet) helped navigate me around a city--London--I have yet to visit. Chicago boasts many museums as well as theaters: Chicago Opera House, Chicago Theater, and the Orpheum where I saw the Phantom of the Opera years ago. The city even has its own famous Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Here's a little unknown fact: the Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass Museum and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (located next to each other) are tucked inside Navy Pier toward the back and admission is free. Tiffany glass, anyone? I've enjoyed Chicago's view from the John Hancock building and from the upper deck of the Mystic Blue, floating in Lake Michigan right after a storm. The lightning show over the skyline was worth the price of admission.

If you're still not convinced the Windy City is similar to London, think chilly temps and drizzle and join me for a monumental ride of action and adventure, exploring the streets of London, in my debut novel Free Runner.


#amwriting #writetip #debut #novel #freerunning #parkour #London #Chicago

Up next on my blog--researching the surfing scene and the world of pakour/free running.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Wonder Years

Yes, I am referencing the hit eighties TV sitcom, The Wonder Years, with Fred Savage and Danica McKellar. A question keeps popping up lately, "When did you start writing?" And to answer that question, I need to take you back--way back.

The Early Years:
In elementary school I wrote sentences. My teachers encouraged me to practice my penmanship on the chalkboard. I will behave in class was a recurring theme. I wasn't the model child growing up. Please don't ask my mother for details. Because of my silliness, I found myself in trouble more than once. My love for reading started during these early years. I credit C.S. Lewis and his magic wardrobe.

The Wonder Years:
Ahh, yes, my favorite few years of life spent in prison, I mean junior high and high school. It all started with a history assignment--a ten line patriotic poem. It was a breeze. Others needed my help. I felt called to help them. Our eighth grade teacher quit in the middle of the year. The principal took over. I wrote short stories when I should have been taking notes. After I saw Dead Poets Society, my best friend and I formed our own secret society. We penned poems about love spurned, cuddly kittens, Little Caesar's Pizza, and cute guys who worked at the VCR repair store.

The Rest of the Story:
If you thought I was going to use the header--The Golden Years--you're in trouble! After my creative writing class in college, where I learned to eavesdrop on people's conversations, I realized I wanted to become a writer someday. After graduation, job, marriage, kids, job, one more kid, I decided it was time to make that dream a reality. And with teenagers in the house, I needed to act swiftly, before my prime subjects graduated from high school.

As you know from my last blog entry, I was writing a non-fiction piece on frontier photographer H.H. Bennett, the first person to ever take a photograph of something in motion. I'm a bit obsessed with photography and cameras and their origins. I thought this children's biography would be the stepping stone into publishing fiction. Now, I'm starting with my new contemporary action/adventure mystery thriller, Free Runner. And I just received word from my publisher that they are bumping up production of my book from spring to JANUARY!! I'm working on my website and a Facebook Fan page and trying not to panic in the process.

Maybe you will start your writing career earlier than I did. Read those writing craft books and blogs and write everyday. Read books of all genres. Write a story you would want to read. If you are still stuck in the wonder years, take heart, you will graduate, someday.

#amwriting #writerslife #photography #writetip #freerunner

October #IWSG

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing p...