This has been a slightly thoughtful past few days on a number of fronts, and many people have heard parts of it individually. In ways I’m actually glad it’s happened now because starting tomorrow work will kick in big time for the next few weeks, not really letting up until mid-October, at which time it’s out of here for me to get over to Hawaii for my folks’ anniversary celebrations. Time for self-reflection, therefore, will be at a premium for some time to come (as will blog-posting, but we’ll see how I can work that out!) And while much remains up in the air I’ve gained some good insights and perspectives, and we will see where they go from there — I don’t pretend to solutions suddenly revealed, but better ways to reconsider where I was at! At the same time a number of folks were facing their own truly rough situations and I hope what cheer or thoughts I could provide are of help.
While all this has been going on, though, a reminder of what time of year it is came into the e-mail — we’re just over a month to go to NaNoWriMo, something which when I first started participating in it helped kick me out of some doldrums at that time. In some respects what I’ve decided to do this year is a bit premature — I had thought I wouldn’t be ready for it for a bit yet — but thoughts this year about being reenergized in a variety of areas let me to conclude in one of my lateral-thinking moments that now is the time.
Specifically, I’ll be starting — but not planning on finishing, though I will reach the 50,000 word limit — a long-mooted historical novel based on a strange incident in my family’s history. My branch of the Raggetts settled in the Bay Area after or around the mid-19th century, and much of the family did rather well. Among the many sons of the immigrant Raggett family, however, were two who did not do so well in life — they’re my great-great-etc. uncles, as I’m descended from one of their more successful brothers. These two became your classic Skid Row of SF denizens by all accounts, living in ‘low’ or at least shady places, consorting with ‘fallen women,’ addicted to opium and heroin, etc — so far, so stereotypical.
What IS unusual is what happened one day — the patrons of the bar that the brothers lived over were startled to see one of them come stumbling into the bar, bleeding profusely. He’d been stabbed, but was still alive. The police were called in and the initial conclusion based on all evidence was that the murderer was the other brother, growing out of an argument the two had. What made it stranger was a simple thing — the victim, who did not die immediately, refused to identify the other brother as the killer.
What little we know about this story has come down to us as a few scattered newspaper reports, compiled by my mom, who has become the family historian. We don’t know anything else about this. It’s always been a mystery what exactly happened — and increasingly, I’ve wanted to tell that story in the only way I can: imaginatively. To do so will require some research and preparation, and arguably I don’t quite have the time for it properly — but in part, that’s why I want to use NaNoWriMo as a way to get a lot of it down. Exact historical details will be needed, as much as I choose to use them, and language in dialog will be a key point I will likely stumble over initially. But the main part of the story — which still eludes me, though I have ideas — will finally start to flow.
And for that reason I’m glad — I have always had a few goals to engage with set into the future, not the far future, but the future, and this is another one. It provides just enough structure to work around. So we’ll see where I go with it from here.