As you may recall, a while back I revealed that I had begun not one but two collaboration projects. One is with my wife Helen and the other is with my high school friend and author Rich Caminiti. Working with my wife has not been a problem since she’s always been my confidant, science advisor, etc.
But working with an old friend like Rich… that presented me with some challenges that both thrilled and worried me.
The biggest concern I had was the fact that he looks to me for guidance in many ways since this is his first full-fledged novel, whereas I already have two under my belt. He had tried one before but due to the fact that it involves time-travel and altering an individual’s personal history, it presented him with a lot of issues that he is still working out. I’ve seen the early versions and I think the story has a lot of potential and will be a great read when the time comes. But before going back to it, he wanted to try his hand at another writing project first, to get more experience and knowledge about the process of creating a novel and getting story-line worked out into a logical and easy to read format.
In some ways I found being in the role of a mentor as well as co-author a little daunting, but I’ve known him for so long that I trusted in both of us to come to agreements and be open to each others ideas and suggestions. However, we can both be almost too agreeable, which presented pitfalls of another kind such as trying to fit too many ideas into one story and the main plot becomes muddied and convoluted.
Luckily, this has not been the case. We talk every week and discuss ideas and really give a lot of thought to each one to see if it can actually fit into the main story. If the idea doesn’t fit, we’ll work and rework it until it does fit or set it aside for another story entirely. (Remember that file folder I keep on my computer where discarded ideas go, that’s where they land up. Just because the idea doesn’t work here, it can work elsewhere or even be the basis for a brand new story.)
As for where Rich and I are at right now, the above image gives you an idea of our thought processes. We have plenty of ideas and red-herrings to throw at the audience, but also a solid progression to the final climactic scene.
So what is our project? It’s a paranormal/historical piece which begins in a snowy winter in 1846 and culminates in a dangerous race against time to thwart the most diabolical plot to cripple the Union Army in 1863-4. No, you won’t find Abraham Lincoln fighting werewolves or General Grant taking on rampaging hordes of zombie leprechauns (Yeah, I know that last one is pretty far out there but some of the things that Hollywood comes out with sometimes is pretty far out there too, folks).
However it does involve actual historical events and figures, as well as a healthy dose of the supernatural and mythological beings from not one but at least three different cultures. These cultures include: Native American, Chinese, and even some European mythos.
Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre but I’m being serious here, folks. Without giving too much away, let me just ask you to think about what was happening in America back in the mid-1800’s. We had an influx of Chinese/Asian immigrants during the California Gold Rush, and the expansion of the railroads. On the East Coast, we were getting immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy etc. due to the Great Potato Famine, unstable regimes, and other events. With all these different cultures coming to America, they brought religion, ideas, food, cultures, etc. So why not a bit of supernatural concepts or beings as well? When looked at in that light, the concept is not so far-fetched is it?
However, it took me and Rich several months to reconcile these ideas and actually formulate a solid workable concept that, based on where we were having the story take place, actually works. We both did extensive historical research on a number of fronts including the Opium Wars in China, events and historical figures involved in the Civil War, Native American tribes located west of the Sierras, as well as San Francisco here in California.
Sharing what we learned through, weekly Skype sessions, we slowly pieced together how the story we wanted to tell could take place and blend into the time period and connect with the turbulence of the Civil War. We also drew upon another event from 1846 which led to the title of our project “The Pass”.
This is part of what makes our collaboration work. Sharing the job of research, ideas, facts, thoughts and hashing things out ‘together’ to make a cohesive concept. There is give and take, as well as turning to each other when one of us hits a mental roadblock or cannot see a way forward. We’re there for each other and offer as much support and friendship as possible.
So that’s what collaboration looks like for us. How far have we gotten with the story and how are handling the writing portion?
Well stay tuned. I’m hoping to explore that area in my next installment. Until then, take care and keep writing everyone.