Guest Post: Garrett Hutson on Choosing a Place and Time

Please welcome with me to the blog today Garrett Hutson, whom I have the advantage of having as a very useful critique partner in my writing group. Garrett writes mysteries and spy novels set in various historical contexts, and I always learn something new when I’m reading his pages! He’s come here today to talk about choosing a time and place for his new mystery series, which starts with The Jade Dragon.

Choosing a Place and Time

I was surfing the internet a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a news story about a sort of rebirth of the old Shanghai jazz scene from the 1920s and ‘30s, and it really intrigued me.  I followed links, learned more—and in the way internet surfing often does, it led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of information about the golden age of Shanghai, the “Paris of the Orient,” with its glitz, glamor, and intrigue.

Perfect back-drop for a story, right? That’s exactly what I thought.  With all of the corruption—I mean, the head of the largest opium syndicate in Asia was the commissioner for the Anti-Opium board in Shanghai, so come on!—I knew it was ideal for a murder mystery.  There was so much potential in this setting—radical extremes of wealth and poverty, even more than usual for the 1930s; an International Settlement governed by representatives of fifteen nations, but under nominal Chinese sovereignty; Korean exiles maintaining a provisional government right under the noses of the Japanese—I was in love with the idea.

I began to imagine a basic plot—a pair of Americans out on the town, enjoying the famous Shanghai nightlife, when one of them gets murdered.  I would need lots of potential murderers, of course, and the world of 1930s Shanghai offered all kinds of possibilities.  There could be some connection with the drug gang, of course, and maybe corrupt police.  There were Chinese communists hiding out in Shanghai at the time, waging a clandestine war with the government, so that could be fun to bring in.  Oh, and a Japanese spy—I’d weave that in somehow.

I’ve always loved imagining what it was like to live in a different place and time, so naturally History was my favorite class in school, and as both a reader and a writer I have been drawn to historical fiction.  History is so much more than dates and events—it is about people and their stories.  As a writer, I have been drawn to the lesser-known stories, which is why I had a ball researching the world of Shanghai during the inter-war period.

I found all kinds of fun things, including a 1934 Guidebook chock full of authentic details on anything and everything, and the published memoir of a British police officer who served on the Shanghai Municipal Police from 1929 until 1936.  Both were invaluable, and made the setting real.

There is a wealth of stock photographs of Shanghai from this time period that really helped to bring the setting to life for me.  I learned that many of the Art Deco buildings from the time are still standing, and modern tourists have posted beautiful color photos of these places on their travel blogs.  These made it so easy—and fun—to immerse myself in the setting, and really imagine what it was like.  Real people passed through these places, with real dreams and concerns, and I wanted to make it feel that real to my characters—and ultimately, to my readers.

That is my favorite part of writing a novel, and I am so excited when it comes together as it did.  If readers love it as much as I did, then my joy is complete.

Garrett Hutson is the author of The Jade Dragon a literary historical mystery set in 1935 Shanghai, available from Amazon. For more information about the author and his books, visit his website at www.garretthutson.com

Like Garrett, I sometimes come across a setting which begs for a story, instead of inventing a premise first, and it’s great when that happens — because then I know the story will be organic to that setting, rather than shoehorned in and ill-fitting. And sometimes we’d never have the audacity to dream up stuff as wild as real life, such as the opium syndicate head serving as anti-opium commissioner! Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

The Jade Dragon released June 4, 2017, and is available in ebook and paperback.

Vote, Maybe Even Win, & Get a Free Book Just For Reading This Post

Vote for War Unicorns!No, seriously, it’s all that simple. (Well, and you have to click a link or two.)

First up: Nova and Reaver, my highly-trained war unicorns from my story “Rue the Day” in the fantabulous upcoming Equus, have advanced to the semi-finals.

Ready for action? Click here and comment that you want Nova and Reaver to win. Sure, a kelpie is cool and all, but we’re talking trained war unicorns. Just click and comment. Continue reading

Blog Tour: ARBITER

Arbiter blog tourToday is the launch day for Arbiter, a YA dystopian fantasy by Jamie Foley. And let me start off by saying, hold everything and look at this cover. Continue reading

The Death of Baldr

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series The Songweaver's Vow: Easter Eggs & Background

Spoiler alert: Baldr dies.

River Song warns you of spoilers.Okay, seriously, there be spoilers ahead. Mythology nerds likely already know some of what goes down in The Songweaver’s Vow, but if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab a copy and then come back for the background material. (Though to be perfectly fair, even knowing the base myth won’t give you a complete picture, so as long as you’re fully apprised of the spoiler-ific nature of this post….)  Continue reading

The Beto-beto-san

geta

geta (photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

If you’ve read Kitsune-Mochi, you might remember a scene where Murame hears footsteps trailing her down a mountain? That’s the beto-beto-san, named onomatopoeiatically for the beto-beto sound of walking in wooden geta on stone.

Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi mysteries, talks today on Murder is Everywhere about her real life brush with beto-beto-san during a research trip in Japan.

Just remember, the beto-beto-san is a mischievous prankster but generally not dangerous, and as with so many Japanese youkai you can get safely away by being polite. Take care and mind your manners!

Guest Cover Reveal: Halayda

If you like Celtic magic and myth, you might want to check out today’s guest cover.
Continue reading

Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water

So it’s October, and you might have noticed I have a thing for the gothic and classic monsters, and it’s perfect weather for reading edgy stories, and so I have a new book to share with you today.

It’s about vampires. /toothy grin/ Continue reading

CON JOB is now an audiobook!

Con Job book coverSo this is fun — Con Job is now an audiobook! So if you’re pulling a long drive, or trying to ignore the stitch in your side during your run, or picking up clutter in your living space, or wherever you listen to audiobooks, now you can do it with Jacob and his geeky friends.

Of course, you have to be prepared for a little murder along the way. Continue reading

Sirens: the Femme Fatales of Folklore

Sirens, edited by Rhonda ParrishToday’s guest post is about Sirens, the next Magical Menageries anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish, and is by Eliza Chan.

Sirens. That was Rhonda Parrish’s call for submissions for the latest World Weaver Press anthology.  The alarm bells started going, well, the connotations of sirens with the emergency services, wailing noise and flashing lights. How interesting that minor creatures from Greek mythology have become a word for warning, the noise of life or death scenarios. It made me think, why are mythological sirens portrayed as malevolent whereas mermaids fill the Disney store and waterpark shows? What makes a siren a siren rather than a mermaid, a nymph or another water creature? Or are these all one and the same? Continue reading

Guest Post: Annie Douglass Lima & The Collar and the Cavvarch

You’ve heard me talk about modern slavery in the real world, and you’ve even helped me raise funds to fight it. I’ve talked briefly about a WIP called Shard & Shield, which includes among its worlds a Renaissance-like society in which Greco-Roman slavery never died out. Annie Douglass Lima imagined a more modern world where it yet persists, and where modern gladiators fight not for television fame, but for freedom.

I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
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