Monday, June 27, 2011

Family Vacations and Research Opportunities

Just got back from San Diego, California where we spent a few days on vacation, visiting family and seeing the sights.  Had a great time, even though ironically enough, the weather in Seattle was better.  Not that it was bad, but it did give us a greater appreciation for the Pacific Northwest.

San Diego is the scene for much of my largest piece of writing, The Plexus.  Many scenes throughout the first three books are set there, and so visiting again gave me the opportunity to sneak in some more research.  I love doing research in person.  It's much more entertaining and gives a much better picture than research obtained via the internet or through interviews.

© Jonathan Dalar
Right off the bat I was thrust headlong into the right mindset.  I saw that shirt on the left in a boutique in Old Town and instantly thought of the Query Shark.  Some of you probably already know I follow her blogs on a regular basis, so it's not a stretch to think I'd think of that when I saw the shirt.  Yea, I know.  It's a geek thing, but I can't help myself.  I'm a writer.

Anyway, it seemed like a good omen.  It put me into a writing mood, even though I was on vacation with the family and didn't bring the computer.  A writing mood is a good research mood, and that's what I needed.

The Old Town District is a great place.  It's got real ambiance.  It's a touch of nostalgia that hearkens back to San Diego's earliest days.  A great place for doing research for a science fiction novel about time travel, wouldn't you say?

In fact, the whole place was like an instant time machine for me, except that it whisked me away to places in my novels, reminding me of scenes I'd written about and revised over and over again.

© Jonathan Dalar

The old lamp posts in particular were fascinating.  I must have taken a couple dozen pictures of them.  They're all great, but this one is probably my favorite.  I have several that might even make a good book cover some day, as they convey a lot of the mood of the books.

I can just imagine this type of picture blended with science fiction themes.  Maybe the sharp neon contrast of a jump craft in the street behind the lamp post as it blinks back into the past somewhere.  I think it'd make a great cover, but then again, it's probably not going to be up to me.

Spanish architecture is a theme that seems to have woven its way into these books whether I intended it to or not.  I think it's fascinating.  I very much enjoyed poking around in some of the older areas of Southern Spain when I lived there, and in fact, my memories of Cadiz very much helped me write the parts of the story I set in Havana, Cuba.  They have very similar architecture, I've been told, as the Spanish founders of Havana wanted it to resemble their homeland.

© Jonathan Dalar

Even though a lot of my story is set in the far future of San Diego, I think this old architecture will be preserved in some form or another.  Whether as a museum, refurbished, or completely rebuilt in the style of the earliest settlers, it is an essential part of what makes San Diego what it is.  It is also something that has made The Plexus that much more fun to write.

I tried to stay with the family and enjoy things from a vacation perspective, I really did.  And I think I did an adequate job of it.  We did have a lot of fun, but my mind was often a million miles (or a century and a half) away.  At least a lot of the time it was.

For me, the best part of our vacation wasn't Sea World, although we had a blast riding the Journey to Atlantis and getting drenched by the dolphins in the dolphin show.

It wasn't enjoying a plate of fish and chips and a glass of Arrogant Bastard IPA at an outside table along the waterfront of Seaport Village, although it was delicious and nutritious.

© Jonathan Dalar

It wasn't getting to eat at In-N-Out Burger again, something I haven't done in years.  That was something the whole family really enjoyed, but it wasn't the best part of the trip for me.

I might get in trouble for saying this, but it wasn't even the great time we had visiting family there.  It was being completely lost in my story.  Lost to the point where it felt like I was actually there with my characters.  Lost to the point where I felt it, not just remembered writing it down.

All in all, we had a wonderful time.  I had a wonderful time, both in San Diego and lost somewhere in the story of a time traveling misfit who was damned from birth to a life she didn't choose.

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