♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Tell us about something local to where you live.
Have you ever made it part of your stories?
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Saratoga Springs, New York is where I was born and where I grew up. It’s a beautiful city and country county in Upstate New York. You may have heard of it. We’re world famous for horse racing. The Travers takes place each year at our flat track (we also have a harness track and casino). We’re also known for the American Revolution Battle of Saratoga and the Victorian practice of taking the waters (mineral water baths and drinking for one’s health).
Saratoga built up post colonial. However, you can see salt box homes still standing strong among the Victorians. A great place to see the architecture is Union Avenue, just down the street from the track. In years past, I worked for a college on that row, and enjoyed many walks among the houses, as well as the world class Congress Park (designed by the same guy who did Central Park) home to the historic Canfield Casino.
Did my hometown make it into my books? Of course she did! Allusions to Saratoga come up in Trailokya, but a mention by name comes in Blue Honor. The reason for this is that during the course of the US Civil War, Saratoga’s streets served as the track by which the gambling wealthy made their wagers. Times were different, and yet so very much the same, that no one got in serious trouble for this. (Do the wealthy ever?) Instead of cracking down, someone saw a money making opportunity and this led to setting up a track and harnessing the tourism dollars from the venue.
Because of Saratoga’s proximity to Vermont and being a hub of tourism for the well-to-do, it was only natural to include the tidbit. This is a place that the Conrads would know of easily, even if they didn’t go themselves. Likewise, the Maynards were sure to be connected in some way. The inclusion of such information, in my mind, helped ground the story further into the history of the period. It also served as a connection to me, the author of the piece. Consider, my proximity to Vermont gives me greater authority.
Some may feel that it is a superfluous tidbit, but when you realize it has a very real purpose of connecting the author and their authority over the material, you see that it really isn’t unnecessary extra information. It isn’t just coincidence or extra fluff that a story about cavalry mentions horse racing in a popular tourist town of the era that has proximity to the families of the story. I’ve seen my share of comments on numerous materials (especially film and television) that suggest such nuggets are a waste. The true waste is missing the point. If you think something is there for no reason, think again! Film and television can teach us a lot about the use of side notes of interest.
Are you one of those folks who figures out a story well ahead of others? The main reason I figure them out early is that I catch those side notes (or nuggets) and connect them logically to where they aim. Something like the Sixth Sense takes it into account and plays this against the reader of the film. M. Night Shyamalan did a great job of this. The sad part is, such a device only works once! It was a great experience, for sure. This is why I take my own turn at breadcrumb trails and hiding Easter eggs.
Before I go, please note that I don’t condone or support the industry of horse racing. My perspective as a local citizen who has had connections in the barn, has made me far more sensitive to what is going on behind the scenes in the name of entertainment sports. The track also brings visitors to our town that we’d prefer don’t come (and I am not speaking of the workers). I’ve had my fair share of interactions with the moneyed elites who think they can do whatever they want. Be safe out there!
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Samantha J Bryant says
Interesting. I grew up in Kentucky, rather famous for horse racing, but I’ve never seen a horse race.
Richard Dee says
Parts of the real world make it into my imagined worlds, after all, it works here, so why not use it there? With a little modification, my home town can exist on another planet, settlers in foreign lands have been recreating their old home in a new location for years, why not take the idea into space?
P.J. MacLayne says
Those nuggets are what helps a reader connect to the locale the story is in. No way are they a waste.
Captain Maiel says
I agree. the reader who wants a bare bones story isn’t much of a reader at all.
Daryl Devore says
Been to Toga more than once. Beautiful Victorian homes. Great restaurants. Never went when it was horse racing time. Prefer the quieter times of the year.
Captain Maiel says
It’s much better in the spring and fall.