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Monday, May 10, 2010

Where on Earth Do You Get Your Ideas?--Part Cuatro

Wow..."cuatro" looks wrong.  This is what Monolingual Me gets for taking five whole Italian lessons.  I want to spell it "quattro."  Next time I make a list, I'll count in Italian.  I love Italian, maybe because I've been a musician all my life, so I have a teeny little vocabulary of music words from which to draw.  For example, my daughter and I giggled all through dinner one night in Rome, because we were eating shrimp codas.  Actually, I think they may have been piccolo shrimp, which only made us giggle more.  And when I saw that the bus stop was called a "l'autobus fermata," I laughed out loud.

But I was talking about where I got my ideas, wasn't I?  And I think I had gotten to Relics
Relics (Faye Longchamp Mysteries, No. 2)
I got the idea for Relics in the same place I found the idea for was lying in a ditch alongside I-10.  That is the boringest stretch of road east of the Mississippi River, but I already told you that.  And I have driven it sooooooooo many times that my conscious brain just turns off, but apparently my subconscious turns on.  My ex used to look at me while I was driving and say, "You're working on your book, aren't you?"  So apparently when I leave that monotonous stretch of road and visit Faye's world, it shows in my glassy-eyed expression.

So I was driving along, thinking about an interest article I had read in a WPA Guide to Alabama--just a paragraph-long blurb about a mysterious ethnic group called the Cajans.  (No relation to the Louisiana Cajuns.)  They had lived in their rural community for as long as anyone remembered.  They had physical characteristics that could be traced to Africa and Europe and North American descent, but they had no history.  It was as if they'd always been there.  This article had spurred me to do some reading about "triracial isolate groups" like the Cajans, and all that interesting stuff was bumping around in my brain.

I had also read a very short article in Archaeology Magazine about a group of people in Mali who lived in utter poverty, but who had learned to fake out some very high-tech laboratory devices designed to estimate the age of ancient pottery.  They were able to make brand new "artifacts" out of mud and pass them off as rare and expensive ceramic art that was selling for huge sums of money to unsuspecting collectors.  I was so impressed by this act of larceny that I wanted to stand up and cheer for the Malians.  (Which may say something uncomplimentary about me, considering that I was very impressed by an act of premeditated fraud.  But the value of art is a fluid thing, and who is to say that the modern piece is of lesser intrinsic value than the old one?  And I was just so impressed that people who may not have running water, or even safe water to drink, could so successfully thumb their noses at cutting-edge technology.)

So as I drove down I-10, glassy-eyed, those two unrelated ideas collided in my mind and the idea for Relics just happened.  I've already told you about that the solar eclipse on the front of Relics is significant (check the archives for my second "A Comedy of Covers" blog entry).  And now I've told you something important about the plot.  I have to stop now.  If I tell you any more, I'm going to have to kill you.  :) 

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