Stories Behind the Story – #1

This is the first in a series of blogs that deal with the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” The short answer: From lots of places!

There are many things in my personal background that have led to the stories I write. My Stories Behind the Story blogs will talk about those stories and how many aspects of them grew out of my personal life.

When I wrote Elegy: The Black Diamond, I fulfilled a vision from many years before.

I know I was an adult, but otherwise I can’t tell you how long ago the first glimmerings came to me. I remember waking up, lying in that amazing, soft world between waking and sleeping. I can still see the picture in my mind, a lone horseman on a hilltop overlooking valleys and more hills. The whole scene appeared in brown and sepia tones, the way that in-between space generally appears. I saw a little of the horse, and the man, seen from the shoulders up, wore a rounded western style hat. Across the saddle, in front of him, lay a black battleaxe, double-bitted. To this day I don’t know if, in my half-dream, he search or wandered, fled or chased. He wasn’t a particularly handsome man–just a man who could have been anyone. But I never forgot the image. Years later this image became the source for my first novel.

Because I love magic and wonder the axe became a magic axe. I’ve written elsewhere in my blog about the fascinating research into such an axe as this one became. Her name just . . . popped into my head. Dark, beautiful, deadly, created for death. My muse, Bear & Butterfly, handed me Elegy, a perfect name for her.

Her owner wasn’t all that special, though. Just an ordinary family man faced with unfathomable loss. Not particularly tall or strong, and no longer youthful. And yes, Bear & Butterfly told me about him, too. I named him Shay, after a young man in the town of Artesia, New Mexico, where I spent my childhood. Shay Patterson was our milkman. On designated days, he delivered glass bottles of milk from his horse-drawn wagon to our front porch. He was a member of Dad’s church; Dad called him a fine young man–his ultimate compliment.

Once I’d settled on Shay, a man with a doubled-bladed axe, Bladen fell into place for a last name. But Shay Patterson was not Shay Bladen. All they shared was a first name. When I pictured Shay Bladen, I saw him as an average size man, somewhere in middle years or close to it, and his face looked much like Joe Mantegna, in his Criminal Minds role as David Rossi. No heroic stature or powerful build. Just a man. A man subject to love, to hate, to loss, to violence, and to strong ties to family and children. A man who experiences tragedy and starting over, and who has to stay alive in the process.

A character worth building my novel around.

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