The first seeds of Mapping the Shadows were planted right back at the start of 2014. I was thinking then about writing a series of shorts about a pair of characters, maybe each one standalone, but with an arc that would build to a finale. I decided early on I wanted it to be a “hardboiled detective” type of story, but set on a space station. Sci-fi noir if you like.
I set out to read lots of noir and detective stories. I thought about the idea a lot. I tried to figure out how to do it serialised. But in the end I binned the serial idea and made it a novel. That’s nearly always my form. I slated it for NaNoWriMo.
Come September I started brainstorming on it, refining the ideas that had been going around my brain since January. By that point I’d given Ash an outlandish number of problems. And a metal arm. (I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier one too many times, I admit.) I was really piling the misery on the poor man! I toned it down a bit and for example decided not to make him an alcoholic. I also turned his metal arm into a regenerated one – which turned out to be good timing when the release came around with the recent news story about a regrown rat limb.
Outlining in October was fun. I had the title quite early. The story fell into place well, though it still lacked a spark—until 23rd of October (it’s in my diary!) when a detail of the Gabe character’s background became that spark. His “Red Irish” heritage became a central theme and conflict in the story and tied a lot of threads together beautifully. I do love those flashes that make everything fall into place. And I really love it when something apparently small turns into something enormously important in a story. That happened to me back in my first NaNoWriMo back in 2006 too and other times since.
November and NaNoWriMo began. It went spectacularly well. The first two days of the month were a weekend and by the end of Sunday I had 10,000 words down. I hit 25k – halfway – by the 9th and the magical milestone of 35k on the 13th.
I reached 50,000 words on the 19th, the same day as in my first NaNo in 2006. The whole experience, my 9th, felt a lot like that first one in fact. But I didn’t rest on my laurels. I kept at it and completed the draft at 77,133 words on the 29th of November. All in all, one of my smoothest and most fun NaNoWriMo events.
I put it aside for a few weeks, edited the story that’s now out as The Champion’s Secret, and then picked up Mapping the Shadows to edit. Like the drafting, the edit went smoothly too. Having a good outline to work from always helps me for the drafting and the editing. It’s especially important for NaNoWriMo, when there is little chance to take a break and think about the next section. By the end of February it was ready to submit. I sent it to Loose Id on the 1st of March. They accepted it and now here it is out there in the world.
- The smallest detail can turn into a key part of the story. So if unsure about putting something in, because it seems pointless, I put it in anyway. My unconscious probably knows best and if it remains pointless I can take it out later.
- A good outline is key for me, especially for NaNoWriMo. But it must always be open to tweaking and changing.
- Serials are nice, but the long form story is my metier. Trust what feels right.
Mapping the Shadows
Ash Bowman is lost. Two years ago he and his cop partner, Evelyn, walked in on a murder in progress that left her dead and him maimed. He left the force and became a private investigator, but business is suffering because of his obsession with mapping the Core of the space station Fraxin Yari, where Evelyn’s ghost haunts him as he prowls the dark corridors.
Journalist Gabe Whitfield is on a mission to learn the truth behind that same murder. He doesn’t expect to stay on Frax after he finishes the job. But meeting Ash Bowman changes his plans. He came to the station a man without ties. He isn’t going to leave the same way.
Despite initially mistrusting him, Ash can’t resist his attraction to the fiery Gabe. Gabe responds, though knows he shouldn’t when Ash is one of the subjects of his investigation. But they come to trust each other and join forces to find the answers Ash had almost forgotten he was still seeking. If they are to have any chance of happiness, Gabe must help Ash lay the ghosts calling him back again and again to the deep darkness of the Core.
A m/m science fiction romance from Loose Id.