I am delighted to share a guest post by author Hawk MacKinney, who answers the question...
ELF: What is one of your hobbies and how has it enriched your writing?
HM: Curiosity once loosed will ingest/probe/blossom and take root in the most unexpected of ways. Had anyone predicted that two hobbies would come together with the most pleasing of an obsession to write, I likely would’ve chuckled and said nothing.
One of my postdoctoral electives was international history with my two choices being English and Russian history. Part of the studies and beyond the personalities was architecture and how built into grand edifices were reflections of a people and the rise/decline/upheavals of civilizations. I thoroughly enjoyed the dull dreg cobwebs…like the unabridged Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire. I enjoyed losing myself in the repetition of peoples and their repeated stumbles/successes, never dreaming that the writing tool kit was being honed and available…it still is but that’s an aside.
Accounts of peoples and chronicles of families in turmoil stirred ideas that could be twisted into fictional settings not yet in rough notes, much less a manuscript. Characters were vague, tales not yet outlined. It was happening without storytelling…one reason I don’t understand writer’s block.
Another elective-become-an-amateur-hobby is language and linguistics, of which I am an exceptional amateur. Both electives enrich all manner of possibilities transposing settings, scenes, actions, and characters, putting geography in a tailspin to draw pictures with words from nonfiction to fiction. My educational background and opportunities provided a leg-up with ancient dates and name changes that have their own twists when reference librarians need more specifics to hunt for sites like Pr-Bast/Bastet or Goddess Pr-Bastet buried in the sands of time in the Nile delta of the 22nd Dynasty.
It gives a wide berth to spin the fiction of one site rearranged or relocated to tie evolution of one language to another and light up an archeologist’s face or make an archeological broken shard into a tempting quick clue that often slips past the reader.
During those hours of study, never in my wildest imaginings did the concept of using them to spin outlandish chases and star-crossed worlds ever knock on my brain.
by Hawk MacKinney
The Indian Queen would risk torture and worse to keep her secrets from these barbarians in suits of metal and their search for cities of gold. They never found the gold. Empires rose; empires fell, the centuries passed. Legend became fireside myths, but no treasure was ever found. Yet, among the grey-green drapes of wisteria and wild jasmine along the misty shrouded lowlands of bayous and marshes of the Westo River, the folktales persisted.
In the lazed creep of a near-tropical dawnlit the pungent Turkish coffee permeated Moccasin Hollow. Beyond the kitchen door Lucky, Craige Ingram’s German shepherd gnawed a favorite bone. Looted burial mounds seemed a world away until plundered mounds on Moccasin Hollow land brings amateur archeologist PI Craige Ingram into the crosshairs of kidnapping. Stealthy hideaways are concealed in old colonial brick-lined river grottos beneath the big house of Ardochy plantation. Sex-tape underage blackmail and thrill killings on federal land spur a medical examiner’s preliminary postmortem to more than a hired cleaner’s quickie cover-up passed off as drug deals gone sour. Greed tangles a witch’s pigswill of illicit affairs and murder-to-hide-murder. Shady investigators and shadier politics stir an unexpected concoction that threatens the lives of those at Moccasin Hollow in a spiteful plot against ex-SEAL Craige Ingram and the woman he loves.
She hadn't noticed the figure carrying a fishing pole walk into the yard until Lucky’s ears perked, and he bounded off the porch to greet Billy and his stringer of Blue Gills.
At first Terri was startled, “Who're you?” She’d had enough surprises for one day.
Billy hadn't seen Terri. “Oh... hi. I'm Billy, Mister Ingram an’ me are friends. I just caught me a mess of fish for supper. Clean ‘em soon as I get home. You must be his girlfriend. The one he likes so much.” Lucky nuzzled at Billy's hand.
“You’ve certainly got the dog’s approval. That's something not just anyone can do. Craige doesn't invite many to fish on his place.”
Billy grinned, pleased at having such a special invite. “Mister Craige told me I could come fish anytime. He sure has been to lots of places. Done things I'd like to do some day.” He sat down on the bottom step and laid his cane fishing pole next to the steps. “I thought you were awful pretty the day I saw pictures of you on the shelves next to those of that old woman.”
Terri said, “The elderly woman is his grandmother.”
The growl of a pickup truck coming down the drive interrupted them; Lucky bounded out to meet it, as Sam Crawforde swung into the yard. Crawforde turned off the engine, and climbed out dressed in faded coveralls and a pair of well-worn, second hand army boots that were Crawforde’s version of snake boots. “Well now, Terri, you’re a sight for sore eyes. It’s been a spell since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you.”
“It has been a while.” Terri gave a nod toward Billy, “This is Billy, an acquaintance of Craige’s who fishes here.”
Crawforde asked, “Craige here?”
Terri said, “He’s inside asleep right now. He had a long night.”
Crawforde propped one foot on the bottom step, “I’d like to sit a spell, but I have several things to take care of before heading back to my office. Tell him I dropped by. He might want to come down to the dig and see some of the things we've uncovered.”
Billy, excited, “Find any arrowheads?”
“There’s lots of them,” Crawforde said. “Lot of Indian sites around these parts.”
“My dad had some. All kinds of things, one axe head. Got two bowls. They're broken but we have the pieces.”
Crawforde said, “You know where they come from?”
“My dad said some come from Edisto Island near the shell hills back in the marshes. My uncle has a farm up near Aiken. Sometimes when he plows, he’ll turn arrowheads all over the place.”
“If the broken pottery hasn’t been meddled with, the shards can help date artifacts. Once a site is dug through, it’s spoiled for dating. If you like to know how people used to live, you might want to give some thought to studying it beyond high school.”
“I guess,” Billy sort-of replied.
“You could study all about the Indians.”
“That what you do?”
Crawforde said, “Been doing it longer than you are old,” to him his work as fresh as ever. “You can tell what tribes lived where; where they moved; who they traded with; how they reused every-day things. How their pottery designs changed, different axe heads like you found. They didn't throw away much. Recycled most of what they had. Couldn't run down to the nearest hardware store and buy a new one.”
“We just finished studying about the Cherokees.”
“Sad, the way they were treated.”
Billy said, “Cherokees had newspapers.”
“That kind of stuff interest you?”
“What year are you in school?”
Crawforde said, “Keep your grades up. College is your next step.”
“USC Columbia. My Dad went there.”
“What's your GPA?”
“Little above a three point.”
“English 550, math 600”
Crawforde smiled, “Sports?”
“Football, but I like baseball best.”
“You going for a scholarship? Either football or baseball?”
Billy sighed, “Probably not. You got to be a spotlight quarterback or pitcher to get that.”
“What you got to lose by trying?”
Billy thought for a moment. “Nothing I guess.”
“Don’t say no to yourself. Go after what you want. I've served on several university admissions’ boards. When other folks say no to you, treat it as a roadblock to be overcome.”
“Or go around,” Billy said.
“You might be surprised how most people want to help. You won't have problems with USC. If you’d want, maybe one of these days you could come in the field with me. Look at some of the mounds discovered last month by one of the grad students from our department. We covered it back up to protect it.”
Billy's eyes lit up, “I’d like that.”
“Hope nobody dug it up since then.”
“That happen much?”
Crawforde said, “It’s a big problem. What's really sad is how some museums pay big money for cultural artifacts with no questions asked.” Glanced at the sky, time of day was moving on, “Got to get going. Use what daylight's left.” Gave a nod to Terri, “Nice seeing you again.”
Terri watched the pickup disappear through the trees and down the curved drive toward the highway. Summer’s darker green leaves were already tinged yellow-green around the edges along the drive.
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