My first blog post! I guess I’ll start with me: My name is James Snover, and I am the author of the short story Blackie. I’m a fifty year old medical imaging engineer (translation: x-ray machine mechanic) who has more hobbies than money. In the past I have been a brick layer and a copier service engineer (translation: copier mechanic). And, briefly, a convenience store clerk. It didn’t last long, and all parties concerned were happy about that. Now I want to get into writing, and my main two themes are sci-fi and humor.
Which is why Blackie is such a departure for me. Blackie started out as an idea for a story for my niece and nephew, when they were seven and five years old. It was an offshoot of my Excentrifugal Engineering stories, in a children’s setting. I imagined my niece and nephew roaming the halls of E.E. with access to everything, which is exactly what Rex would allow them to do, because little kids like to do scary, fast, dangerous, fun stuff, too. So Rex would figure, why not let them?
The kids story was entitled “Lexi, the Atomic Robot Horse,” because we had a horse named Lexi, and the kids loved her, so why not a story about a horse? That story also featured Gizmo, the cat from outer space who eats cars.
But I wanted to do a more serious story, and so the idea of the Atomic Robot Horse stayed on the back burner in my brain for about ten years. No one in this day and age would build an atomic powered horse. It would be expensive, it would be dangerous, and in today’s world it would be of limited use, so who would ever want to make one?
Then, in the first of Sarah A. Hoyt’s writer’s workshops I attended, we were going the through the rounds of introducing ourselves and stating our interests. One of the attendants mentioned he liked to research the Pony Express, and bingo! I knew who would want to develop a robot horse, and why they would want it, despite the expense. I even figured a way they could make it pay off.
As for how the story is told as a development program, that relates to one of my other great interests, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Reading about the program they put in place to develop, build and test the Blackbird, is, in my opinion a great topic for a movie. I find the challenges they had to face and the way they overcame them to be absolutely fascinating reading.
I also like the steampunk genre, but one thing I don’t like is that too many of the authors hand-wave the power source and computing abilities required for some of their creations. I wanted mine to have atomic power as a power source, and the Babbage engine as a source of computing power.
So I set several key historical figures back in time, and several others forward in time, and I had my cast of characters. The story wrote itself, from there.
The other topic I would like to address is the business side of writing. You read a lot about the changes sweeping through the field, right now. Amazon has brought a major change in how the business is conducted, and I think it is all for the better. With the information you can get from Amazon, in near real-time, you can see directly how well your work is doing in the market. And e-publishers such as Naked Reader Press let you be much closer to your audience; while their ability to market directly, and through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, gives a new writer a step directly into a huge market.
Everyone is waiting to see how all this change and upheaval settles out, but personally, I don’t think there has ever been a better time to get into writing than now.