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June 13, 2016
Posted at 2:54 am
 

Include your email address!

Unlike many authors, I accept anonymous feedback on my stories. I've never had a flamer and your comments are important to me. Sometimes I think people just forget to add the line in "Feedback" for their email. Sometimes, what they say is so personal that they don't want to risk exposure. I understand. That's okay. If you include an email address, I always try to respond, even if it is just to say thanks.

But, sometimes people ask me very specific questions about things in a story that I'd like to answer, but they don't include an email address. Usually, I just sigh and let it pass. Lately, I've received a couple anonymous feedback messages that ask questions that I can't send an answer back to. The more I got to thinking about it, though, the more I realized that others might have these same questions, so I'll do a little post to cover my writing methods for LNDtH and other stories.

LNDtH covers a timespan from when Brian is about 10 (1981) to when he is 30 (2001). I have pages and pages of Excel worksheets to keep track of the timelines, characters, and events in this story of approximately 1.5 million words, 239 chapters, and over 300 characters. Those spreadsheets include relationships, class schedules, birthdays, physical descriptions, seating arrangements at parties, teammates, tournament brackets, and horses' names. And historical events.

LNDtH is a work of fiction. I make up some places, distances, and sometimes fudge on the timing of things. For example, I don't think the Mishawaka daily newspaper still existed in 1983 when Brian started his career as a newspaper carrier and most papers had contracted their delivery routes to adults with automobiles by then. But it was good for the story.

On the other hand, as much as possible, I have tried to maintain a consistent historical context without getting bogged down in details. So, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, things like who was president, senator, representative, are accurate. The date of Johnny Carson's final show, the music that they listened to, the movies they saw are all as close as I could make them to the historical context. In dealing with the rules and division changes in high school basketball, I used the IHSAA archives. For all college tournaments, I used a combination of the NCAA records and a lengthy trip to Indiana University's historical archives so that the basketball record and even scores of each game are consistent with the record. The dates of events like the bombing of embassies in Africa, the opening of Camp Lemonnier, the European and African headquarters of the Marines in Stuttgart, the rates of pay and time to promotion are all researched as carefully as I could and corrected when readers send me corrections.

Within that context, I've created schools that don't exist, television shows that never broadcast, conflicts that never occurred, shootings, kidnappings, and even a town that never existed. All within the context of what could have been.

And sometimes (often?), I screw it up and an actual expert in the field contacts me to say things like, "He couldn't have used that gun because..." "The timing is wrong on the collapse of the Twin Towers..." "They all get the same amount of vacation..." "You got the first round and second round brackets switched..." "It doesn't take that long to get from Mishawaka to Evansville..." or whatever. Where possible, I correct the error and where it isn't, I hide behind the statement that it's fiction.

My three editors--Floyd, Old Rotorhead, and Pixel the Cat--are always vigilant, not only for proofreading errors, but for inconsistencies with the historical timeline, military history, weaponry, art style and technique, distances that can be covered on horseback if you are riding daily for a week or a month, martial arts, misused names and descriptions, and even the basic premise when I go astray. But none of us are infallible. Sometimes I even throw things in after they've had their crack at it and introduce an error they never saw. But all-in-all, we do pretty well and I thank them at every opportunity.

This is not a rant. I appreciate your comments and questions and try to answer each of them. Based on a couple questions I recently received, I thought you might like an inside look at the process. If you'd like a response to your comments, though, please include your email address.