Throughout the years, I have acquired an eclectic collection of knowledge both speculative and factual. I like to research and I like to study but what I enjoy most is taking ideas and theories I learn and extrapolating and conjecturing further with them, even modifying typical applications of them.
I have always liked cross-applying knowledge over varied subjects. In my work experience, I take what I have learned from one job and see if I can apply any aspect of it to my next. Creating, making, building, conceiving and implementing are my action words; the verbs of my existence. I once took methods I learned working at a corrugated box factory and re-applied that knowledge to making a massive dollhouse out of bristol board, masking tape and craft paint to house my daughter's dolls. It was light weight and sturdy as I used box design to accomplish my goal. She kept it until she outgrew it and it was still sturdy years later. I was proud of that dollhouse for many reasons but mostly because I had taken knowledge on my own and re-applied it to create something new. I would like to think I took a step towards wisdom then. because isn't knowledge without use or application merely rote and memory. Intelligence is nothing if it isn't utilized.
Likewise, emotion is similar to knowledge in that sense. You can feel something but if you don't embrace it or understand or even just face it, it is just a feeling without validation or use. Wisdom can be learned from what you do with emotion just as you do with pure knowledge. Emotion is not just what you feel stemming from your interaction with others. It stems from your interactions with everything as well as everyone. Can not a sunset bring certain positive sensations to mind just as the gloom of an approaching thunderstorm sometimes bring less positive feelings?
It was a feeling such as that but deeper and longer lasting which came upon me in my late teens on a spontaneous adventure one weekend to the historic city that is Montreal, Quebec. I had quickly gotten lost there and ended being helped out by a young bilingual woman I had met at the bar the previous night when I had first arrived in the city and subsequently been separated from the co-worker I had come on the adventure with.
Despite, the girl's penchant for gin and dancing; she was also a devout Catholic and dragged me with her to Notre Dame Basillica the morning after we met. As I sat on the pews waiting for her to finish her business which I gathered was confession though she never really did confirm that, I took in the amazing setting I found myself in.
At that time, I knew much less of religion than I do now though I had already formulated certain opinions on the subject. I had also yet to really set myself upon the path of the spirituality I experience. I had however studied a bit about art history and architecture.
The church amazed me. I could feel the age of it; the creative lives that had been poured into its foundations and crafted into the vault of its ceiling. I could feel the essence of the congregation and each and every individual who had ever passed through its doors. It drew me through the stories of those who had worshiped there, those who had sought sanctuary there; and those who had come there not for themselves or their gods but for others at their bequest.
The stone, the wood, the windows and the furnishings emanated with the seemingly venerable age of the church and I learned later that Notre Dame Basilica is one of he oldest structures of its type in North America. The old stories that I heard from its walls captivated me and enchanted me.
I remembered reading the few pages of Richard Challenger's story I had written again not long after that, having come upon them in a box in which I kept far too many other seemingly random things. I remembered Challenger's desire to visit the ancient neolithic site we call Stonehenge. I remembered the feeling of age and history that had accompanied my visit to Montreal and the countless tales it had told me. I thought to myself then, if that was what I could sense from an edifice a mere few centuries old, what would it be like to stand among something thousands of years older. Richard wondered the same thing.
My visit to Montreal has been reflected in Richard's journey ever since then but the journey to the Standing Stones has changed and matured in its descriptions and what lessons it has taught the two us since it was first conceived. No longer does a busty Morgan Le Fay try and seduce Challenger in a back alley in Salisbury. I think that part might have been a holdover from Richard's days as a blond detective with a porn-stache and my own hot-blooded youth.
Regardless, the basilica is a part of Richard Challenger's history now and forever will be. Parts of the story have been fleshed out over the years and this reality I live in has helped inspire other parts of Richard's life. They still do, though since this volume is about to be released; any new influences on this character's past will have to be added as backstory, possibly through flashbacks.
I think my wife just groaned inwardly at that. When you read my work, you'll notice I have a fondness for backstories and flashbacks as a forum to explain certain details of the story. Richard's mind, like my own, does not relate to everything in just linear time. Everything is co-related. The reasons I use this method of story-telling is explained a little more in the foreword found a the front of A Strand of Grey.
More recent influences have affected the re-writing and continued telling of Richard Challenger's tale. My original description of Richard's visit to Stonehenge included a vivid description of the ancient site. An issue with that came to light when I met my heart-mate and wife. She had been to Stonehenge and she had carefully informed me that I had got it wrong, not all wrong but wrong enough that anyone who had ever been there would realize that I hadn't... been there that is.
Hmm! Food for thought...
Studying books and, nowadays, doing online research, can provide a lot but experience is still the best teacher. Having been to a location is the best resource for accurately describing somewhere to others. A subsequent trip to England and Wales was an adventure of not only discovering and learning of my ancestral roots; it was also a research project. Being at the Standing Stones, cresting the top of Glastonbury Tor and exploring the ruins of the castles of Welsh Princes in the mountains of Snowdon provided both food and fuel for parts of Richard's story.
My love for my father's homeland of Wales grew exponentially and I learned that Richard needed to explore the land as well. Years, before I had used Richard as what is known as an NPC, a non-player character, in a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons which I ran. He had helped and motivated the characters my friends had created as their avatars within the game. I had initially set them in Robert E Howard's setting of Hyboria, the lands and time of the pulp fiction character most of as know as Conan the Barbarian.
Quickly, I realized that as a Dungeon Master, I was a story teller too and just as I had grown from telling fan fiction in my childhood to new stories of my own, I decided I wanted to do the same with my gaming. Thus a new world was born and nations evolved into existence in my imagination. This world became the world of Richard Challenger.... worlds even. The gaming campaign and Richard's slowly growing tale began to merge in the way of deeds and those he interacted with.
Richard Challenger's tale grew and became other tales of other characters. It also became the history of the Dominion of Cymri; sort of an alternative history of Wales in many ways but one in which it became an even more influential nation than on Earth. Other nations were birthed in my imagination, born of diasporas of other peoples to this world I had created, all influencing and helping develop a rich history of a new world but originating from Earth at some point in history.
The gaming influenced more than just geography. It influenced communication... it influenced dialogue.
Dialogue in writing is always tricky. Characters have to sound different, they need different voices and different personality traits. Otherwise there is little distinction between the players. As a writer, it isn't always an easy thing to make each character stand out from another. The developing personalities of some of them that were played by my friends began to help with that. They applied some of their own character traits to these new lives they had made and sometimes let their own creativity blossom and intuitively give original characteristics to these creations that I never have thought of on my own.
Returning to Challenger's story after publishing my first novel, Portrait of a Rivalry, I again used my own experiences to help colour Richard's. Recently, I began to learn a little about the ancient craft of blacksmithing. This might have had one of my most recent influences on Richard's tale. Early on, Richard experiences the elemental skills a man must master to work with metal in a coal-fueled forge just as I experienced them myself not so many seasons ago.
There have been many more influences upon this work; some I have forgotten the origins of, some I might not have even realized have occurred. All have helped shape the story I have written and in so doing, have shaped me as well.
More can be learned about Richard and me on my web-site, including how to get a copy of either of my novels. Both can be ordered from there as well