Deviating from a Book Outline

It’s always interesting to hear from other writers about the methods they use to draft their novels. Many authors outline carefully and extensively, while others simply start writing and see where the story goes. I’ve heard about some who don’t use a formal outline, but still develop some type of framework to establish where the story is headed.

I’m still not sure which side of the debate John and I fall into. When we wrote 60th Hour, we never drafted an outline, but we had a pretty good idea of where the story was going right from the start. For Prophecy’s Malignant Son, we used a hybrid structure — we did not outline the entire book at the beginning. Instead, we wrote an outline for three or four chapters ahead of the chapter we were currently writing. We were also world-building at the same time, because it was a brand new fantasy universe for us. Obviously, the second draft of the manuscript became very important to tie everything together. Our fellow Emerald Cove writers also gave us valuable feedback. In some cases, their critiques led to multiple revisions of key chapters of the book.

When January 1, 2021, happened to fall on a Friday (the day my weekly blog post is due), I took the plunge and developed some writer’s New Year’s resolutions. One of those resolutions was to draft a full outline for our next novel before we started writing.

We met that resolution. Even before we finished editing Prophecy’s Malignant Son, John and I had already started outlining the sequel. Working together, the two of us came up with a chapter-by-chapter outline, and began writing the new book.

As of yesterday, we had finished Chapter 8 of the new manuscript and started on Chapter 9.

But an interesting thing happened along the way, as we wrote those first chapters. We started going off script. At first, the deviation was minor — a chapter was too long, so I broke it into two chapters. The chapter numbers of the outline changed, but the rest remained basically the same.

The next change was far more substantial. At some point when writing Chapter 6 or 7, an idea occurred to me, which would revise events to add a new (and I think more interesting) plot twist. It won’t change the book’s ending, but it will greatly alter the middle section of the book to add more drama. It also solves a timing issue that had worried me (split plotlines will now come together later in the book). We are still several chapters away from writing the new scene, but we need to revise the upcoming chapters to build up to it. A few of the ongoing character interactions that were originally spread across the entire book will now take place much earlier.

So, having made those changes, are we still writing from an outline? Should we revise the outline to reflect the changes or simply run with them?

Interestingly, I’ve found myself doing exactly what we did with our prior book — outlining three or four chapters ahead. So maybe that really is my outlining “comfort zone.” I guess we’ll see as the book progresses.

For all you authors out there who are reading his blog post: what do you prefer? Do you outline? If not, how much of your story’s end do you know when you first sit down to write. Feel free to leave a comment to the post. I would love to hear from you!

-Susan 10/15/2021

Writing Inspiration Destination: Hawaii’s Big Island

(This is part 8 of the series describing places that have influenced my writing.)

A storm approaches the beautiful Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park.

Where does an author of medieval-ish (emphasis on the “ish”) high fantasy novels find inspiration in a tropical paradise like Hawaii? Not necessarily where you would expect.

Yes, Hawaii is everything it promises in all those travel brochures. It has amazing beaches, beautiful scenery, great food, gorgeous flowers, and wonderful Aloha friendliness. Beyond all those good reasons to visit, the Big Island (Hawai’i) also has one more special attraction for me: volcanoes!

A pathway winding through Lava Tree State Monument.

When I was a child, volcanoes terrified me. Once, when I was little, our family’s camper-van broke down near Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. We had to wait several days for the parts to arrive so the local mechanic could fix the engine. During those days, I was constantly worried that the volcano would suddenly erupt. (Obviously, the concept of “active” volcano was not entirely clear to me at the time.)

A walkway near the Thurston Lava Tube.

As I grew older, fear turned to fascination. Over the years, I’ve visited other volcanic sites during my travels, including Santorini in Greece, Pompeii in Italy, and Mt. St. Helens in Washington. I even went back to Mt. Lassen a few years ago with my beloved co-author.

When John and I visited the island in 1998, there was a place where the road ended abruptly at a hardened lava flow.

Our visit to the Big Island (Hawai’i) in the late 1990’s, in addition to making me fall in love with the place, offered one unique experience that was unavailable at the other locations we visited – a helicopter flyover of an active lava flow.

Looking down at the flowing lava from the air.

I remember being surprised at the time, because the lava looked a lot different from the air than I had expected. For one thing, it was daytime, so there were no spectacular colors to light up the night sky. Instead of rivers of fire, the flow looked more like mercury. Only a few spots showed the characteristic fiery red-orange that you always see in the media.

Apparently, this flat field was an active lava lake at the time Mark Twain was on the island in the 1800’s. I’ve read that there is currently a lava lake on the island, but it was not present when we visited in 1998.

This is the part of the blog where I usually explain how a visit to a particular location influenced my writing. As you know, all those volcanoes in 60th Hour and Prophecy’s Malignant Son… oh, wait…there are none. There are also no volcanoes in our short stories in the Emerald Cove anthologies. So, you might ask, where is the influence?

The beach at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

The most direct influence occurred in one of our earlier, unpublished novels. The story opens in a lava field near a volcano.

Will that book ever see publication? I’m not sure. It would need a ton of work to make it readable. It is far too long and much of it probably needs to be rewritten from the ground up. Ever since John and I started self-publishing, I have debated whether to go back and rewrite the old books or concentrate on new ones instead. So far, the new ones are winning, but who knows in the future?

Even without that unpublished book, I still suspect that the raw power of volcanoes and the colossal forces they exhibit, have influenced my writing in more subtle ways. Like earthquakes, they are forces of nature we cannot control. They remind us that, no matter how technologically advanced we may become, there are things out there far bigger and more dangerous than we are. That’s always a good reminder for a fantasy author.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan

p.s. According to some sources on the internet, the punctuation mark (okina?) is used in the spelling of the Big Island (Hawai’i), but not the name of the state (Hawaii). I hope I have used them correctly here. If not, feel free to chastise me in the comments.

What’s New at Emerald Cove in Fall 2021?

St. George and the Dragon on display in the dining room of the Hotel Ritter in Heidelberg, Germany. (Photo by Susan Ruff 1991.)

It’s been a while since I provided an update about our Emerald Cove Press projects, so this seems like a good time.

The Emerald Cove writer’s group met at our favorite Denny’s last Friday. It’s great to be back to live meetings again. We had a long discussion about the upcoming shared-world anthology. The cover art is finished and looks great. (Thank you, Sue Dawe!) We considered possible type fonts for the lettering on the cover and talked about the order of the short stories within the anthology. I distributed review copies of the new short story that John and I had written. (So far, we’ve contributed two stories for the upcoming book, both very short and humorous.) While Emerald Cove doesn’t have a specific publication date for the anthology yet, I am anticipating it will be out by the end of the year.

In other news, the second edition of the paperback version of 60th Hour is live and available on Amazon. It corrects a lot of the formatting glitches of the original paperback version and has a new cover. So far, the ebook version has not changed (though I may update it to add the new cover).

My beloved co-author and I are currently on chapter eight of our new novel, a sequel to Prophecy’s Malignant Son. We had originally anticipated publication some time next fall. However, that time table may move up because of my other news:

I think we are going to try the NaNoWriMo challenge in November this year. (National Novel Writing Month.) The idea, as I understand it, is to produce 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days, which comes out to roughly 1,667 words per day. As some of you know, in our husband-and-wife writing team, John helps with plotting and ideas, while I do the actual typing and word composition. I know I can write at least 500 words per day, and when I am really inspired, I can sometimes produce up to 2,000 words with no problem. To do that consistently, every day, for an entire month, however, is both a daunting and exciting prospect. If we succeed in reaching 50,000 words in November, it probably won’t be enough to finish the new novel, but it will definitely move up our publication date.

John and I have also started advertising our books Amazon. I took a basic class to learn about AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) a few weeks ago, and I will taking a more advanced class starting about two weeks from now. If it works out well, I’ll let you know.

That’s about all for now. Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 10/1/2021

p.s. You may be asking why there a picture of St. George and the Dragon at the start of today’s blog post? Stay tuned for Emerald Cove’s upcoming shared-world anthology to find out!

Writing Inspiration Destination: Rhodes, Greece

(This is part 7 of the series describing places that have influenced my writing.)

Few places in the world shout, “fantasy novel setting” more than the Island of Rhodes. The crenelated barbicans and towers rise over the buildings around them in a classic, story-book-castle style. The shoreline boasts magnificent sea walls built of brick and/or stone, and many of the streets are cobbled. Sadly, you cannot see the Colossus of Rhodes there today (except in the the gift shops), but you can still go to the harbor where, according to legend, the statue stood.

Old cannonballs are still visible in parts of the island.

My beloved co-author and I visited the island twice. The first time, we toured the museums and historic sights. On the second trip, I spent much of the day wandering the streets and fortifications, taking dozens of pictures with my brand new digital camera and enjoying the scenery. (Digital cameras, with their capacity to store hundreds of pictures, were an amazing invention for me — on our first trip to Greece in the 1990’s, I came back with 16 rolls of film. On our second trip, I may have taken that many digital pictures in Rhodes alone.)

As an aside, I had an ulterior motive in taking all those pictures during our second visit. At the time, I was planning to run a table-top role-playing game for some friends. The game was roughly based on those 1930’s action-adventure movies about an archaeologist who was named after a U.S. state. (Yeah, I know that the movies said he was named after the family dog.) The characters in the game would travel to Rhodes as part of the story.

But this blog is supposed to be about writing inspirations, not rpgs, so let me get back to the main topic.

While the Island of Rhodes does not specifically appear in any of John and my books, I am pretty sure that the fortifications and castle towers were in the back of my mind when I wrote the various castle scenes in our novels. For example, Rhodes was undoubtedly one of the places from which we drew inspiration for the royal palace and the city walls of Cravanse in our latest novel Prophecy’s Malignant Son.

This is a color-restoration of a scanned photograph from the photo album of our1992 trip to Rhodes. I still am not sure how much I like the color restoration, but the photo definitely looks better than the faded version from the album.

If you are a fantasy novelist, I highly recommend a trip to Rhodes (once the pandemic is over). You will find sights to inspire your writing almost every time you turn a corner or stroll down an alley. Frankly, no matter what genre you write, it is still a great destination. I hope all my readers who like to travel get a chance to visit the island some day.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 9/24/2021

Writing Inspiration Destination: Venice, Italy

(This is part 6 of the series describing places that have influenced my writing.)

In June, I wrote a blog post entitled “Five Places to Inspire Writing.” In that post, I briefly mentioned Venice as an inspirational city. After I gave the matter more thought, I decided that Venice really deserves it’s own post. It is one of my favorite places to visit, and its unique sights are wonderful for a writer seeking inspiration.

When I first visited Venice as a teenager, my biggest surprise was that there was no surprise — Venice was exactly as I had always imagined it. It had canals and gondolas, spacious plazas and narrow alleys, historic statues, and restaurants next to the water. When my parents paid for a gondola ride, the gondolier even sang to us. Other places in the world might be disappointing when actually visited, but not Venice. It was every bit as amazing as it advertised.

Everything in Venice is interesting,
even the upper parts of the buildings.

One of my most vivid memories of that first trip to Venice involves the hunt for the statue of Colleoni. On our last day in Venice, my dad and I went wandering through the city, trying to find the famous equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni. I think my dad had a guidebook, but not a map, so we made a lot of wrong turns before we finally found it. I remember searching narrow streets, sometimes going down an alley that ended abruptly at a canal. We crossed tiny bridges and seemed to travel through a maze of buildings on our quest to find it. To my teenage mind, it was a grand adventure.

Andre del Verrocchio’s statue of Colleoni.

Many years later, I returned to Venice, this time with my beloved co-author. To my delight, I found that wandering through the city still sparked my sense of adventure, just as it had in my teen years. There is something positively magical about a place full of canals and Renaissance architecture. A few things had changed — as an adult with a map, I found it much easier to locate the Colleoni statue again, and I enjoyed the restaurants far more than I did in my youth. But, despite my age, the city still kept its charm and captured my imagination once more.

While I can’t point to an exact passage in any of our books that was based on Venice, I’m sure my time in the city has provided more subtle inspiration. There’s probably a little bit of Venice in the seaside city portrayed in Lord Larrin’s Trophy (the short story in Emerald Cove’s Stolen! anthology). In addition, the hunt for the Colleoni statue has no doubt helped to inspire scenes in my writing where a character is lost in an unfamiliar, maze-like city.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 9/17/2021

Killing Characters in Novels: Red Shirts or Dead Ponies?

Many years ago, I read a short story in school about a kid and his favorite pony. Bad stuff happens to the pony and the kid goes through herculean efforts trying to save it. In the end, the pony dies and the story was very depressing. I think it may have been a classic written by a famous author, but I’m not sure. After all these years, I don’t really remember much about it, except how much I disliked it.

I disliked it so much, in fact, that some of my friends and I started referring to the unnecessary death of a main character or a sympathetic supporting character in a novel as a “dead pony.” For example, if a fantasy author kills off a main character for no other plot reason than to show that the villain is a bad guy, that’s a dead pony. The author could have chosen other ways to signal to the reader that the villain was bad.

To this day, I still dislike dead ponies in novels. If I am warned that an author tends to kill main or secondary characters, I generally avoid reading that author’s books. (You can probably guess which immensely popular fantasy series of the past few years I did NOT watch on television.) While a character’s demise may occasionally be an integral part of a plot, gratuitous character deaths always annoy me. (One of my friends refers to those as “murder by author.”)

(And, by the way, I am only talking about fantasy novels. Other genres are very different. You can’t write a murder mystery without a murder.)

There is, however, one exception to my opinion about dead characters in fantasy novels. One type of character death does not trouble me – the death of one or more “red shirt” characters.

I assume that most of my audience is familiar with what I mean by that term, but just in case, let me explain. The name comes from the original Star Trek series. When Kirk and Spock beamed down to a dangerous planet, there was often an unnamed security officer or two who went with them. When the monster attacked out of nowhere, it would kill one or more of those security guys, putting the main characters on notice that bad things were afoot on that planet. Star Fleet security personnel always wore red shirts in the original series (hence the name “red shirts”).

When I started preparing for this week’s blog, I thought about red shirts versus dead ponies and the differences between them. What makes some character deaths in a novel more troubling than others? Here are a few of my thoughts:

The primary difference has to do with the level of investment the reader has in the character. Those security officers in Star Trek sometimes were not even given names. They had no backstory, no relationship with the main characters, and nothing to distinguish them from the scenery. While their deaths were troubling (just as any death is troubling), there was nothing to disrupt the narrative or cast a shadow over the rest of the tale.

Dead ponies, on the other hand, have a strong connection with both the other characters in the story and with the reader. In the pony story I mentioned above, you agonize with the kid as he’s trying to save the pony and you feel for both of them – the kid and his pet. When the pony dies, the disappointment hits hard for both the character and the reader.

The line between red shirt and dead pony can be a thin one. In the Lord of the Rings, King Theoden’s door warden Hama starts out as a very minor character, but quickly crosses the line when he supports the heroes at the risk of his own job. I felt bad when he died, far more than I would have for a standard minor character.

Another difference between red shirts and dead ponies may involve reader expectation. When my family used to watch Star Trek back in the 1960’s, my father always called the red shirts “expendables.” As soon as they showed up in the scene, there was an expectation that something terrible would probably happen to them in order to facilitate the story.

Likewise, when a book or movie opens with an old mentor and a young hero, a reader knows not to get too attached to the old mentor. The expectation is that he will die before the story ends, sometimes to start the young hero on his journey and oftentimes while saving the young hero’s life. It happens so often that parodies have made fun of it.

The impact of a character death may also depend on when it happens. Character deaths near the beginning of a novel are often less troubling than those that occur later. At times, a fantasy novel will have a “shake-up” event at the outset of the book that propels the story forward. As a reader, I try not to get too attached to characters until after that time of uncertainty ends and the main characters are established.

Finally, the impact of the death may depend on how the other characters in the story react to it. In the Lord of the Rings, for example, I was less troubled by Theoden’s death than I was by Hama’s, even though Theoden was a far more significant character. Why? Because the other characters told us not to be upset about it — they all talked about how Theoden had done a great thing and kept his oaths, etc.

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts. I’ve already gone on a little longer than I usually do in a post, so I should probably end here.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 9/10/2021

Writing Inspiration Destination: Granada, Spain

(Note: as mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of my friends suggested that I write about some travel destinations that had a direct influence on my writing. This is part 5 of the series.)

Have you ever wanted to visit a place because of a song? Recuerdos de la Alhambra is one of my favorite pieces of classical music. While I admit that we did not travel to Spain solely because of music, I was delighted when our tour of Spain included the city of Granada and the magnificent Alhambra palace.

Granada is a charming city, with its mix of Spanish and Moorish architecture. The artwork inside the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real de Granada) is particularly beautiful.

Statuary near the tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella within the Royal Chapel.

The Alhambra palace is the crowning jewel of any visit to Granada. While the ornate columns and delicate latticework of the buildings could certainly inspire an author, the gardens really captured my imagination. I wandered in wonder amidst fountains, reflecting pools, and archways.

A lovely reflecting pool in the Alhambra gardens.
The archways formed of greenery were both fascinating and beautiful.

Those delightful gardens have not specifically appeared in any of the fantasy novels John and I have written, but they certainly helped inspire some of the outdoor scenes in 60th Hour, particularly the canopied trellises on the walkway leading up to the temple.

Those of you familiar with Granada, may be wondering why I did not include a photo of the iconic lion fountain in this post. To be honest, the pictures I took did not come out very well. I was using 35 mm film back in those days, so I could not check the photo quality until I returned home from the trip. (Digital photography makes everything so much easier!)

And, by the way, while I may not have visited Granada just because of a song, John and I have traveled to two other cities for that reason — Benson and Winslow, Arizona. Anyone around my age is probably familiar with the song reference for Winslow, but I wonder how many of you remember the song about Benson?

Talk to you next Friday!

Susan 9/3/2021

Time for a Second Edition

If you are an Indy author who just published your latest book, should you consider a second edition of your original novel to clean up the formatting problems with the first edition?

In my case, the answer to that question is easy: Yes. John and I are currently finalizing a second edition of the paperback version of our novel 60th Hour to correct a lot of annoying formatting glitches.

At the time we published 60th Hour last year, neither of us really knew how to prepare a book for publication. We had contributed to the Emerald Cove short story anthologies, but others had done the actual formatting of the manuscripts for the ebook. The anthologies were never released in paperback.

In the beginning of March 2020, John and I decided to try our hand at self-publishing. I took the various “Kindle University” video classes and learned about the steps necessary for publication. We decided to release our first novel in both ebook and paperback formats.

The Kindle edition of the book (the ebook) turned out to be fairly easy to produce. Because the reader of an ebook can change the font sizes to make them larger or smaller, the manuscript requires special formatting. Amazon has excellent tools to produce that kind of novel. All you have to do is plug in your manuscript, follow some directions and suddenly you have an ebook. (All right, I’ll admit that the process was not quite that simple, but overall it was straightforward and the tools provided worked very well.)

Likewise, the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) book cover creator was both easy and fun to use. I am no artist, but I had a great time playing with various ideas for the cover.

Kindle University also has detailed instructions for how to format a paperback, but in March 2020, those seemed long and complex to me, especially given the ease of producing an ebook. When I discovered that I could upload the same ebook-formatted manuscript to use for the paperback, I jumped at the chance.

Sadly, that was my first mistake. A different paperback book might be just fine using the ebook formatting, but 60th Hour had a few quirks that made publishing especially challenging.

In particular, many of the early chapters of the manuscript had been written in the 1990’s using WordPerfect software, not Microsoft Word. The chapters were later converted to Word and the remainder of the manuscript was written in various versions of Word, but the conversion apparently left some hidden formatting within the text. As soon as that manuscript became a KDP paperback, those hidden commands caused extra spaces to appear at random intervals between some of the paragraphs. In addition, all the “widow/orphan” protection disappeared, so it was possible to have the final page of a chapter contain only a single sentence or a few words. While those glitches did not keep someone from reading the paperback version of the book, they were obvious and annoying.

My second mistake was that I did not order a “galley proof” of the paperback book to review before publishing. A lot of the formatting issues were present when I reviewed the uploaded manuscript on my computer screen as part of the publishing process. However, I naively assumed that the problems were because of the video nature of what I reviewed and that they would be gone when the physical paperback book came out. Had I taken the time to order a galley proof and review it, I would have realized that all those formatting glitches remained present in the paperback book. What I had viewed in that video version was exactly what was printed in the paperback.

For the past year, I had intended to produce a second edition of 60th Hour, but it was never a high priority. Then, when John and I published Prophecy’s Malignant Son in July 2021, I discovered that people were buying the paperback version of 60th Hour. Suddenly, those embarrassing formatting errors became important again.

So, John and I started the process of preparing the second edition of the book. This time, we are doing it right — I am following all of Amazon’s guidelines for formatting paperback books, and I ordered a galley proof copy which should arrive tomorrow.

With luck, the second edition will be finalized and ready for publication next week.

Then we get to start a whole new experience….(drum roll)….trying to advertise our two books on Amazon. Wish us luck!

Susan 8/27/2021

Writing Inspiration Destination: Balboa Park

Balboa Park’s Botanical Building and surroundings. (Apologies for the photo quality — it was scanned from a photo taken in the mid-1990’s.)

Sometimes, you don’t need to go any farther than your own hometown for writing inspiration. This becomes much easier, of course, when your hometown happens to be a major tourist destination with beaches, parks, culture, museums, and other fascinating places to visit.

Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower.
The Organ Pavilion, a beautiful location for outdoor concerts.

I grew up in San Diego County, and it is still one of my favorite places in the world. Balboa Park, in particular, has inspired my writing in the past, and continues to do so. Given its beautiful Spanish-style architecture, paths winding beneath the eucalyptus trees, lovely gardens, and wonderful museums, the park’s ability to inspire the written word is not surprising.

What did surprise me is how few pictures I have taken of the park. When I sat down to write this blog post this morning, I thought my task of finding park photos would be easy. Instead, I discovered that, despite hundreds of park visits over the years, I have taken fewer pictures of Balboa Park than I have of Disneyworld in Florida.

Walking near the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. The last time I visited the park, it appeared that they were expanding this area to add more cottages.

Balboa Park is especially relevant to my writing at the moment, because of Emerald Cove’s upcoming shared-world anthology. Until we have an official publication date, I don’t want to say too much about the book, but Balboa Park definitely makes an appearance. The writer’s group is meeting tonight, so I should know more very soon.

In the meantime, I leave you with this silhouette of the park, taken on a December evening many years ago. I will never forget that night, with its clear skies and beautiful weather, because I flew out to visit relatives a few days later, and ended up in a snowstorm. (It was quite a contrast for a Southern California girl.)

Talk to you next Friday!

Susan 8/20/2021

Writing Inspiration Destination: Santorini, Greece

(Note: as mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of my friends suggested that I write about some travel destinations that had a direct influence on my writing. This is part 3 of the series.)

A writer of any genre could find inspiration on the Island of Santorini, with its beautiful villages scattered above the cliff sides. The whitewashed buildings, the stone walkways, and the magnificent ocean views all give Santorini a special charm. The island even has its own black sand beach.

As a fantasy author, I found my greatest source of inspiration while visiting the archaeological site at Akrotiri. At some point in antiquity, a volcanic eruption buried the region. Some scholars have speculated that a distant echo of the event might be the source of Plato’s Atlantis dialogue.

The remnants of the volcano rise within the midst of the watery caldera.

While I am not a historian and certainly not qualified to speak about any possible ties to the Atlantis legend, there is no doubt that Akrotiri is a fascinating and almost mythical place. Unlike the stark brightness of other ancient sites, Akrotiri sits in a warm twilight beneath the modern, roof-like coverings that protect it from the elements.

The ruins are amazingly well preserved. Pottery and colorful wall murals survived the volcanic cataclysm (and can be viewed in the nation’s museums). As you walk through the site, you can easily visualize the people who lived there in the past.

My imagination can run wild at times. (I guess that’s why I like to read and write fantasy.) The first time I saw this broken staircase, I was both fascinated and a little frightened by it. What titanic forces cracked those stones in two? If people were present to witness the event, what terror must they have felt?

That broken staircase appeared in one of the early drafts of 60th Hour, in a scene describing how Len Cranford found the book that Aubrey stole. The scene was cut out of later drafts, because it didn’t really add to the narrative and worked better as “backstory.”

Even if the cracked staircase itself did not end up in the novel, there is no question that Akrotiri was one of the inspirations for the chapter where Len makes his discoveries at the dig site in Renilee. The scene in the novel was a fantasy version of an archaeological dig, of course, with only the faintest reflection of genuine archaeological work. However, the mural in the story and some of the items the characters found were definitely influenced by what John and I saw during our visit to Santorini.

This photo was scanned using the “color restoration” setting on the scanner, which is why it does not have the orange tinge of the other photos. (I was shooting with high-speed film and available lighting on our fist visit to the island, back in the early 1990’s.)

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 8/13/2021