Thursday, August 8, 2013


A few months ago, I was asked by a local Las Vegas editor if I'd be interested in writing a short story for the upcoming Las Vegas Writes anthology, which coincides with  the Vegas Valley Book Festival, (October 30th - November 2nd) and a contributing authors' panel discussion/book launch scheduled for Halloween.
Hell Yeah! is what I was thinking, but I'm pretty sure I responded with a little more decorum. I was told that the theme is progress and it has to be about Las Vegas in some way.

To get an idea of what they might be looking for I read last year's anthology, Wish You Were Here, which was an homage of stories and essays to the old Vegas postcards, which I think were also used as writing prompts or at least chosen to go along with the pieces, which I thought was brilliant.

I've had a story in my head for a while, working out the nuts and bolts of it for a few months, but I knew right from the beginning it would have to do with water. I live in the dessert, so water is something precious. Then I've always thought that the whole "Primordial Soup" idea was interesting, too. Put those things together in a "horror/scientific" type of mind and I thought, what if the soup came back because water got smart and didn't like what we were doing to it? What would it do to us? How would it act? After a trip to the Hoover Dam for some background and research, my short story "Reclamation" became a more solidified idea and I began to write it out.

Taking the Hoover Dam tour wasn't just probably one of the coolest things I'd ever done, I got some good research out of it and learned quite a bit. After watching a short black and white film like the ones they showed us on projectors back in the day like old "Re-building of America" documentaries after The Great Depression, we got on an elevator and went down over 500 ft. The crowded elevator part was a bit uncomfortable, but it was very quick. I'm not even sure I felt butterflies in my stomach when we slowed/stopped. Then down below, I didn't feel like I was that far under the earth. It was very cool and open, considering it was about 110F degrees outside that day. The Nevada side turbines in the picture to the left where the American Flag hangs, hum a lot quieter than I thought they would.
Then you take the elevator back up after the tour guide is done explaining how things work. Our tour guide was very patient, as I kept him busy asking questions that made the rest of the tour group a little nervous.
Let me tell you, if you've never done it, the view from the top is a doozy. Especially if you have issues with heights and it's windy. Hundreds of people walk across the top of the damn every day. There's also another bridge that was recently built to keep cars from driving over the top of the dam anymore. To be honest, that's fine by me. I always hated that drive over. Not that the new bridge is any less scary.

 At the end of the trip we went to view some of the famous statuary done by Norwegian-born, naturalized American Oskar J.W. Hansen. One of them was the monument of dedication on the Nevada side of the dam. Rising from a black, polished base, is a 142-foot flagpole flanked by two winged figures, which Hansen calls the Winged Figures of the Republic. The winged bronzes which guard the flag, wear the look of eagles. The winged figures are 30 feet high. Their shells are 5/8-inch thick, and contain more than 4 tons of statuary bronze. The figures were formed from sand molds weighing 492 tons. The bronze that forms the shells was heated to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and poured into the molds in one continuous, molten stream. It is said that touching their feet is good luck so were sure to do this.

I suppose my whole point in writing this particular blog post was to show how important research is even when writing a short story. I wanted to know what the smells were like at the dam, what it felt like, and sounded like, so that I could "show" not "tell" when I wrote details in my story. From minor to major ones, research is an all important thing. I know that when I'm reading, and with my nursing/medical background, if I read something that just isn't possible or not right, but know could have easily been rectified with a little research, I tend to put the book down. And I'm not saying that my research is always a hundred percent. I am writing a work of fiction after all.

I turned "Reclamation" in the yesterday and reminded the editor that I'm a horror writer, so my idea of progress may differ from others.

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