Monday, September 17, 2007

The Story Behind The Story: Diggin' Up Bones

I’ve had story ideas come from a variety of sources; conversations, what ifs while reading, some of my lectures in college, etc.

But Diggin’ Up Bones is certainly unique in its evolution.

Last summer (that would be 2006), I moved from Kentucky back home to Missouri. Well, almost home--I grew up in Kansas. Anyways, my husband and I moved first, and our daughter stayed with his parents, since our apartment wouldn’t be ready for another month, and we were staying in a one bedroom (very small) house in the meantime.

No cable, no real internet connection (long distance fees out the wazzo when we did dial in), and no real money to speak of. So we spent a lot of time together, watching movies we had on DVD and VHS, listening to a lot of music, and playing endless hours of computer games.

To give you a better idea of the place, we had so much stuff (since we had an entire moving truck of stuff, for a two bedroom house) in this tiny one bedroom place, we had wall to wall boxes. We had boxes stuffed in the kitchen cabinets, and boxes stacked on the counters in front of them. There was a two foot wide walkway from the front door to the bedroom door.

My computer was set up on a chair at one end of our love seat, and his was set up at the other end. Boxes were behind each computer. We had no table, and no place to sit other than the love seat and the bed.

We stayed there about 45 days.

So to stay sane, and would take walks in the evenings, just to get out of there. On one of our walks, a line came to me. Simple, direct, and spoken in a soft yet frustrated voice.

“Zach Bradford, part time archeologist, full time pain in the ass.”

I didn’t know anything else about him, or about her, than that. He was an archeologist, and she felt him to be a pain in the ass.

I started playing with it from there. If he’s an archeologist, then what does he do? What does he look like? Well, he’s part Native American, so he will specialize in preserving digs of Native American sites.

From there, the idea for the title came to me. I had the title, “Diggin’ Up Bones”, one line from the story, and nothing else. That title however, spun off other ideas. It’s the title of a song, by Randy Travis. While I don’t listen to a lot of country songs, I do enjoy that one. And it got me to thinking about their relationship. He’s a partially Native American archeologist. So he’s doing a dig at her place, but she doesn’t want him there.

Why not? What’s the story there? How do they know each other? What do they mean to each other? These and a few hundred other questions filled my mind during the mile and a half walk.

My husband walked silently beside me, not bothering me, after I told him I had a story idea. And boy did I ever.

When I sat down that evening, the story flowed out of me. I hit just over 5 thousand words (a milestone for me at that time). I was happy with it. I felt the story had been told. A friend of mine edited it, and we had it polished to within an inch of its life, bringing it to about 7 thousand words.

I sent it off to Venus Press, and surprise of all surprises, it was accepted. But then things happened, and I had to pull it before it ever saw an edit there.

So I started looking around, trying to find another home for what was quickly becoming my baby.

Phaze offered that home. But I wanted it to be more than a HeatSheet. I knew it could be. After all, it was my baby, and it deserved its own cover image. (Yes, that was actually a factor in expanding the story). By that time, I had also reread it, and there were some places I felt could be tweaked. I also had another friend look at it and suggest some spots she felt would be better as a longer piece. So I tweaked. I rewrote. I added to. By the time I was done, I had hit 12 thousand words. Just barely. 12,038 I believe was the word count. I had reached another milestone in my writings.

And again, it was accepted. I jumped for joy, and went on to write other things.

Then the edits came. LOL My oh my, I almost died. I admit that freely. I flat out, no holds barred, freaked. I was devastated, and exhilarated. I had a headache and hope at the same time. This was the first time I had written a story of this length, so the consistency issues, the flow of the dialog, the clothing they were wearing, and the emotion behind the words all had a bigger importance.

Through it all, I kept repeating the words of one of my high school English teachers to myself. “The more red ink, the more actual suggestions made, the more the person cared about the story.” It became my mantra.

For the first time, I allowed my husband to read it. (The unedited version I subbed, and the red inked one). He had his own editing suggestions. And over the course of two exhausting days, I took both edits, used what I thought fit, added a bit more here and there - where it was suggested a scene be added, or some info be included - and before I knew it, I was at 14 thousand words.

I kept right on going, polishing the heck out of the story.
It was exhausting, it took over a year from start to finish, and a kick ass story (at least I think so anyways) has resulted.

And now, today, it is available for others to read. I am giddy, and anxious, and nervous as hell. So I hope that you enjoy Diggin’ Up Bones. And that you disagree with Alisa. He might be a part time archeologist, but Zach Bradford is no pain in the ass.

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