How I Got Here—Redux

I first started this blog on 31 October 2011—Halloween. I don’t think there’s any hidden significance to that date. I don’t write about horror or ghosts or witches like you might associate with that day. Since then, I’ve been lucky to attract some followers, especially here in 2012. And so I thought I’d revisit a couple of early posts to introduce you to my fiction.

A few of you may have seen the original posts. But since most of us don’t have time to go back and peruse the archives of fellow bloggers, I thought I’d make it easy. So here’s a recap of how I came to write novels.

How Did Get Here? Part 1

So how does an archaeologist come to write fiction? Some of my associates in the other subfields of anthropology might tell you it’s no great leap – they think that’s what archaeologists do all the time. You can imagine how most of us feel about that joke.

Seriously, I never saw it coming. I always got As in English classes, and my teachers and professors said I was a good writer. But once I got to graduate school, all of my writing was academic. And trust me – professional archaeological writing will never appear on a bestseller list. It’s everything good fiction isn’t – wordy, passive, and jargon-filled. Have trouble sleeping? Pick up an archaeological site report. You’ll be out in no time.

Still, over the years I’d get some ideas and think they’d make an interesting book. But ideas are easy – writing a book is hard. Then, in late 2007 or early 2008, I watched a documentary about the Smithsonian Museums, and there was a segment about a naturally formed mummy. It grabbed my attention. Researchers couldn’t match the name on the headstone with local records from the time the guy lived and died. And some of his clothing wasn’t quite right.

Now there was an idea for a book. An archaeologist excavates a burial, and something doesn’t fit. When she examines the artifact more closely, she accidentally reactivates it and the adventure begins. I tried to start it then, but the Muse wouldn’t unlock the door to creative writing. And so the idea kicked around in the back of my head with no way out. But the Muse apparently had plans for 2009….

How Did I Get Here? Part 2

In late 2008, a friend told me she had started working on her novel again. And I told her what I said in my last post. I could come up with ideas, but writing them down was another story, so to speak. I envied her talent and perseverance. At the same time, another idea started taking shape in my head from various threads – string theory, the multiverse, alternate selves. Take a character through a slice of her life in a few different universes.

That idea kept going through me, taking more substantial form in my mind, although I still didn’t sit down at the computer. But on Easter Sunday in 2009 I was talking with my mother. And at one point she said, “You’re a good writer. You should write a book.”

Something clicked in my brain. She’s right, I thought – I should try to write this story. And in that conversation, my mother told me a family story I’d never heard before. It became the germ of the last idea I needed to start the book. (Sorry, I can’t tell you what it was – I don’t want to give away too much!) Two days later, I sat down at my computer and started writing a story I would ultimately call Summer at the Crossroads. This time, the words came. And they didn’t stop. I was writing a novel. Looking back, I think that clicking sound was the Muse unlocking the door to creative writing. And that’s how I got here.

If you’re still with me, you might be asking, “But what about the first idea? What happened to it?” Oh, it was still there. But that’s another post for another week.

If you’re interested in following up on that last bit, you can find the posts here and here.

30 thoughts on “How I Got Here—Redux

  1. you’re excavating a fossil as you write 🙂 (Stephen King has it right!)

    Fascinating reading how the process begins for another writer. Keep going!!


    • Hmm, I’m not sure my characters would consider themselves and their stories fossils! They might be giving King the raspberry for that analogy. 🙂

      I really liked some of my earliest posts, but very few people saw them the first time around. Remember NBC’s old line back in the late ’90s or early ’00s? “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you?” So I thought I’d revisit some of them now and again.

      They’re definitely getting more views and comments this time around!


  2. Great idea to recap for us. You’re right–if we haven’t followed a blog since its inception, we don’t always know the background. The books I enjoy reading the most are page-turners that also educate me about worlds of which I know little. Looking forward to the day I’m holding yours in my hand (or on my iPad Kindle) 🙂


    • I hope that day won’t be too far away. And I hope I’ll be reading your first work soon, too. I’d probably be tearing my hair out if I was in your position. Patience has never been one of my virtues 😉

      But I need at least this round of beta reads and polishes for both books before I even consider shopping them. I learned my lesson last time!


  3. I don’t think I discovered your blog until December, so it’s really interesting to read these early posts – just look how far you’ve come in the blogging world already (although who could have foreseen Carrie’s freaky dreams)!


    • I bet all of us have great posts from the early days that never had much of an audience. And I would enjoy reading other bloggers’ early works, too. But there’s only so much time I can devote to reading blogs. So it really is hard to go into the archives and catch up—especially if I start following a blogger who’s been at it for a couple of years or more!

      And Carrie has got to find a way to get more entertaining people into her dreams! 🙂


  4. i second all the above (or below) comments about enjoying the re-telling of your blogs early beginnings. i enjoy reading everything you write. your mom was correct (and she sounds like a good mom). interesting this whole blogger-journey thing, isn’t it? Where’s Oprah? Oh, I expected her to appear because I just said journey. anway, thank you for the wonderful morning read.


    • And quite honestly, they make good posts on days when we got nothin…. 😉

      The blogging journey is definitely interesting—one I never thought I’d make. Heck, blogs didn’t even exist for most of my life to date!

      She is a good mom. 🙂 The writing definitely comes from her side of the family. My grandfather wrote poetry, a play, and edited and wrote for a number of magazines. Unfortunately, almost all of his work is in Serbian, which I never learned to speak or read! But now that there’s google translate, maybe I should get hold of his works…. Not sure if the Russian Archives would let me borrow their copies, though…. 😉


  5. Well done recap! A lot of it I already knew from random things you’ve said in comments and from having read some of your earlier posts. What a great personal story. Sometimes we do need those extra nudges to get us moving in the right direction. I’m glad your mom kicked your butt in gear! 🙂


    • Thanks, Kate! It was a totally unexpected trip, but I’ve loved almost every minute of it. (Can’t say that I loved those “passes” from agents on Summer at the Crossroads.) Mom’s been enjoying it, too, and encouraging me every step of the way.

      My goal for this evening is to start writing some backstories for the main characters of Death Out of Time. I have this idea that when the book is published, they can be “extra content” on my website that fans of the book could read.

      But first I need to catch on today’s posts from other bloggers—including yours!


  6. It reminds of the hit tv shows who air a few of their early episodes for new viewers! Thanks for giving us a slice of the beginning. 🙂


  7. So glad you made the leap because you write beautifully and you’ve got great story ideas. Happy I found your blog early on because I find it informative and inspiring, Keep on 🙂


  8. well i’m glad you started posting, and finally discovering your real talent – creative writing.

    just saying……


    • And I need to focus on that creativity…. Which is the subject of today’s post….

      Thank you so much for the compliment. Hopefully, I’ll have two books to share soon.


  9. That’s interesting about the mummy’s clothes not being quite right. I love fiction that involves science, history, and real-life things like this. Good luck with those final novel stages!


    • Thanks! I really think the ideas are good. The hard part is writing a full-length novel that people will enjoy reading. Hopefully, I’m going to do just that. 🙂


    • Aw, thanks, Mouse! The ideas have definitely chosen me. Some writers might roll their eyes at that, but it’s true for me. Those characters are “out there” somewhere, and they get into my head! They would find a way to kick my behind if I ever tried to say I “made them up.”


  10. I think of archaeology as detective work – solving mysteries – which I find very interesting. It ~does~ seem pretty dull in the details, though. I find myself saying, “Skip the rubble brushing and artifact categorizing. What was discovered?” It seems to me that it must take alot of patience. I think that would come in handy when writing and polishing a novel.

    You mentioned string theory! That’s one of my pet research projects at present!


    • Unfortunately, sometimes we have to do all that detailed work to really understand what we’ve found. 🙂 It does take patience and an eye for detail to be an archaeologist.

      String theory is key to my novel “Summer at the Crossroads!” My main character’s ideas about it are how we as readers get to see several of her alternate lives. It’s a very different book, but I’m still hoping I can get an agent to take it on once I’ve finished the revisions.


  11. Pingback: Nurturing The Dream « jmmcdowell

  12. Pingback: Work In Progress Challenge « jmmcdowell

  13. Pingback: Some Light Reading | jmmcdowell

  14. Thanks for posting this recap, JM – it’s a great idea, and a solid way to get people to know you better. 🙂 Unfortunately, you’re right about how many of us don’t go back through the archives of blogs we follow. Admittedly, there’s a lot of them, and many of us have a difficult enough time keeping track of the active posts we follow. So, I appreciated the recap, here. 🙂

    Funny, how we can be told “You’re a good writer,” but so many times, we just move on without giving that another thought. I suppose we’re taught to ignore too much praise?

    I haven’t read Crossroads, but it sounds like a neat idea. If not for a novel, a series of connected short stories would be very cool. Like, each one is about the “same” Mary Jane, from divergent moments in her life. It could be like catching up with someone who’s life was tinkered with by The Doctor! 😀


    • I’m really a fan of making it easy for new followers to catch up with older posts. 😉 So as long as I blog, I’ll probably link to some of these older “bits of me.”

      Right now, I’m trying to remind myself that I do have some talent for writing. Others have noticed it. But like so many writers, I’m my own worst critic in the worst ways, and I won’t catch other problems. I’ll look at things that are good and think they’re garbage. But at the other extreme, I’ll miss some obvious weak points. Sort of the worst combination possible….

      I don’t think the characters from Crossroads will ever let me go entirely. The novel I wrote didn’t work for beta readers in this universe. But maybe someday we can figure out something that will. Maybe something more science fiction (a la traveling with The Doctor) would work…. Despite the comments, I still love the characters and their stories. Maybe someday I’ll be able to do them justice and find an audience for them. 😉


      • I know exactly how you feel. There are some stories and characters I just *love* and cannot let go, no matter what anyone else says. And why should we let go, really? They’re still a part of us!


  15. How synchronous! I clearly recall my first awareness of String Theory and Brian Greene….I was folding clothes and half watching 60 Minutes one Sunday night in 2008 and thought, “whoever this guy is, he certainly can explain physics well!” Being a big sci fi fan, I started researching Greene and his work.
    I can totally understand how listening to him and thinking about the very real possibility of parallel universes would spark your inner writer, JM. I’m so glad it did!


    • Greene really has a knack for making such complex subject matter approachable. And I detest those in the scientific community who consider such efforts “beneath them” and who think “real” scientists don’t bother with the public. That intellectual snobbery is a major reason why so many in the public distrust science today. Very short-sighted behavior!

      I’m exhausted today, and I can’t decide if my allergies are what’s dogging me or if I picked up a cold on vacation…. Please let it be allergies!


Comments are closed.