A few weekends ago, I went to Massachusetts for a felting class. (It was awesome.) On the way back, I ventured to the middle of the earth all by myself (and with a group of strangers) for some book research. Since nearly half of my book takes place below-ground, I couldn’t rely on my decade-old experience at Carlsbad caverns. I needed to be inside a cave and turn on my character screen, in which I try to see everything as a character in my book would see it.
It was amazing! Howe’s Caverns has an underground stream (they call it The River Styx...ha ha ha). One of the rocks has created a natural dam, building up an underground lake, and the owners of the cave let you ride on a mystical boat* and cross the river! How awesome is that?!
I was taking a picture with my cell phone, musing about how awful it would be if I dropped it in the water, when a bunny fell into the water. It flowed downstream until it got caught in some foam**. The guide climbed down and saved the bunny (and the parents). I had to take a picture because, seriously, how often do you get to see a stuffed bunny floating down an underground river?
Look at that river. Seriously. It’s cold, it’s flowing fairly quickly, and it’s coming from outside, flowing through the cavern, and then flowing back out again. If a frog or fish washes in during floods, they make their way out, because there isn’t anything living in the caverns. (Except for a fair bit of moss that grows wherever they’ve put up lights.)
I wore my valenkii from St. Petersburg; they kept me warm and provided excellent traction***. (Thank you so much, Val!!! They’re gorgeous!)
I emerged, after an hour and a half, with a mind chock full of details (textures, sensations, emotions, images, etc). It was totally worth it. Plus, now I know of a great place to spend Halloween.
The absolute best part was when the tour guide turned off all the lights. I’d never been in such complete darkness, in such a large space, with such a large group of people. (Agatha Christie would have had someone murdered and tossed into the knee-deep water during that moment.) It was perfect because the very last scene I’d written in my book had one of my characters walking deep into a tunnel, in the middle of the earth. In the dark.
Status on my book: I’m 2/3 or 3/4 of the way done (it’s hard to judge, exactly). My critique partner Emma is hoping to finish hers by mid-February, when she has February Break (a strange NY school tradition). So it’s my goal, as well. I need to keep up with her so we’ll stay on track and be able to read each others’ completed draft at the same time.