As a university employee, I’ve been off the week between Christmas and New Year’s since the mid-1980s. Depending on where the holidays fall, I usually add a few days to one end or the other to extend the break even longer. It’s never enough time off, and it always goes by too fast.
In the early days I’d make a list of projects to complete during the extra time off. This just made the time go by even faster and left me feeling disappointed because I didn’t get everything done. The solution was easy enough. I quit making lists.
This year, to increase the value of a much-needed break, I opted out of almost everything about Christmas. I sent cards and cash then called it quits. No shopping or wrapping of presents. I didn’t travel or make half a dozen trips to the UPS Store to ship gifts. No decorating or baking, and no big holiday meals. Sad? Some might think so.
But not me.
By the time I go back to work on Wednesday, I’ll have spent two full weeks doing whatever I wanted to do. Yeah, I’ve checked off a lot on my list of projects to complete. But this is just my normal list–not stuff to do during my time off. With my memory, unless I write it down, it rarely gets done.
The biggest task on my list and one I did hope to accomplish over the break is figuring out where I’m going with Thad Parker, Philip Potter, and the other characters in my novels. That Until Thanksgiving would be part of a series didn’t occur to me until I finished writing it. Soon into the prequel, After Christmas Eve, I knew there would be a series with holiday titles spanning the period between 1966 and today.
The way things worked out, I was able to make minor changes to Until Thanksgiving that were needed because of something in After Christmas Eve. That won’t be an option now, and each new books pins me down even farther. Mapping out the series is high on my priority list, and the more detailed the map, the better.
As originally conceived, only the holiday titles and the repeat appearance of familiar characters tied the series together. The prequel stems from a random comment made in Until Thanksgiving that forced me to set the story in 1966. Researching gay life in the sixties opened my eyes, and helped me to appreciate even more how much things have changed for gay people in America since then.
That’s how the major theme for the series evolved. I came out in 1979. Thirty years ago, we might have called the man in our life husband, but nobody I know talked about gay marriage. Our concerns? Stop discriminating against us in regards to housing and employment, de-criminalize homosexuality, and quit beating us up for being different.
I’ve lived through a massive societal change. I’ve seen both the best of times, and the worst. Many of my peers–gay men born in the 50s and 60s–have been lost to AIDS. Some died violently, assaulted by ignorant thugs. Others took their own lives, whether on purpose or through self-destructive behaviors that got out of hand. How many of us survived to talk about the way things used to be?
My goal is to write a series of stories that depict gay life–at least the way some people lived it–at different points in time. After months of thinking about how to proceed, I finally decided that step one was to develop a timeline of significant events in gay history. There are several good ones online, and I’ve pieced together my own from them and my own recollections with details that can easily be included in a novel.
Including Until Thanksgiving and After Christmas Eve, it looks like there will be six or seven novels in the holiday series–more if it takes me forever to write them. The next step is putting together a timeline around the fictional world created in the first two novels. Knowing when things happened will keep me from contradicting myself (fingers crossed). This will also help me decide what characters to use for each novel.
It’s all very complicated.
One thing for sure, I need to bone up on my gay history. (Insert here one of the half dozen tasteless boner jokes I decided not to use.) I’ve ordered several reference books which should help. The internet is a great resource, too, especially for details like popular songs, movies, and automobiles that help to set the story in a particular time.
So my next project is to keep working on my timelines, reading, and thinking about stories until I have a rough idea for each novel in the series. It’s really about developing the back story for all my characters and understanding how they’re related to each other. Once I get all that down, the rest is easy.
Well, not really. But for me, the hardest part is coming up with a main plot line to keep the reader interested in reading everything else. For the first two novels, I used serial killers to keep the reader turning the page. I’d like to try my hand at something different–we shall see. I’ll keep you posted right here on…
My Glass House