A thing that frustrates me is when I spend a long time on something, and then it turns out that I have wasted my time doing it. I am not pointing out the editing process of my work. There are bound to be mistakes discovered. It is the position of the editor to find those mistakes, mark them, and help me remove them to clean up my work to a presentable form for submission.
I also need to hand over the work to beta readers to determine if the overall story works. In the same manner that my acting was critiqued and criticized by the director and my acting coaches, the feedback that I received would give me ideas of how to make changes that would improve my performance. Some of them I would heed. Some of them I would not. If I were to change something in one Act or Scene it could detract from the overall performance. So, there were cases where I did take tiny bits of the suggestion, such as slowing down my pace. That would often help that scene, but allow me to become heated and anxious later on.
There are also times when it seems that the Universe has it out for me. I honestly believe that Alexa is its harbinger of destruction. If you have Alexa, and you are watching TV, having a discussion with someone on the phone, or (for me) reading my work-in-progress aloud to test how it sounds to the air. Alexa interrupts me by asking me if I wish to hear the latest discount price on the latest price of an item based upon my latest purchase history.
This intrusion reminds me of the Holy Hand Grenade scene from the movie Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In this scene, Arthur and his knights have encountered this foul beastie, disguised in the form of a harmless white rabbit. Arthur sends two of his brave knights to slay the dangerous, which quickly dispatches Arthur’s men.
After a brief retreat, Sir Lancelot suggests that they bring forth a holy relic to vanquish the evil creature. From the King’s royal train, the clergy was brought forth with the Holy Hand Grenade safely kept in a box.
The clergyman gives a holy reading.
“And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three.”
Arthur readies his toss,
[Arthur] “RIGHT! ONE…TWO…FIVE!”
[Lancelot] “Three, Sir!
[ARTHUR] (Momentarily Confused then winds his arm back) “THREE!” [Arthur is brought to an abrupt stop as a voice interrupts him]
[Alexa]: “Turn off is not supported currently, but you can ask to hide the camera.
[ARTHUR] [Arthur looks for voice in the air] “ALEXA, STOP!”
So, why did I bring all of this up? I am a historical novelist. Historical fiction can be an extremely challenging genre to choose. You have to be mindful that if you are going to set your story (unless it takes place within an alternate timeline) during a previous time period, it needs to be historically accurate. An author has to be aware of places, events, clothing, the technology of the time, and colloquiums. You cannot have any anachronistic items. All of this is what helps you to create your setting. All that you are doing from this point on with your particular story is inserting your plot, and then enter the characters who are affected by both the backdrop of the setting and the fluidness of the plot. This is where you get into my analogy, but let us look at it from another perspective. As a writer, the author is a playwriter and director. The book is the stage production. As a member of the audience, you are the reader.
In writing the Metacom Saga, I have been dealt with many “Alexa Head Aches”. Although the genesis of the project began when I was ten years old, the initiation of writing the first book in the series did not begin until February 2014.
For seven years, I have been searching for any and all historical information that I could find that pertained to the Pre-settlement of the Plymouth Colony, the Mayflower, the United Colonies, the Pequot War, the History of the Native Peoples of New England, and the King Philip War.
I made sure that I found information that had differing opinions. I found that the opinions of so-called experts became biased and outdated. Some of the opinions didn’t have any basis of fact and were mere legends. Even if there were information that cited documents and events, but some of the facts or the information didn’t match or make sense and challenged another resource, it derailed how I was going to use it in the Metacom Saga. I then had to spend extra time, sometimes months, to find additional resources that collaborated with either position.
I was plagued with seven years worth of these Alexa moments. But frustrating as they are, they are a necessary evil. The Holy Hand Grenade sent the rancid rabbit to oblivion. These moments made me into a better researcher. These moments made me more manageable with the subject matter. I am still in the process of completing it, but the “Alexa Moments” has allowed me to become so knowledgeable of the subject matter that I am mapping out every single scene of every chapter of the entire series. I know where it begins, I know where each arc progresses and climaxes and ends, ultimately closing in the finale. I feel that these moments make me a better writer because it gives me the confidence that when I feel overwhelmed with the big picture, I can micronize to a more manageable (a scene) piece.
There is one final thing that I want to mention regarding “Alexa Moments”.
Life happens! Recently there have other issues that have prevented me to focus on my writing. I typically rise every morning between 4:00 and 5:00 am to work on my social media accounts. I was having difficulty getting out of bed. I am having some personal troubles that are weighing on my mind. I am no different than anyone else. Life will get busy. You may have a family. You may be having a busy time at your primary job. You may suddenly have an unexpected car repair, which is what happened to me.
I write full time. But I will be returning to my part-time job as a driver for Lyft and Uber. This is what has been weighing on my mind and has been affecting my appetite. I only drive twenty hours a week, and I have complete control of when I drive. And to be honest, the reason why I drive is to get out of the house. I am a people person and I enjoy the passengers in the early morning who are on their way to the train to commute to Boston. We talk about my book or their interests. Some of them become regulars. By 10:00 am, I am done for the day.
What have I done?