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The Student and the Slave: Ideas from my Facebook Friends
I enjoy Facebook for a lot of reasons. But one thing I especially appreciate is that it's enabled me to gather ideas from hundreds of people - ideas that have enriched my writing.

As I was working on my recently-released action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, I got stuck several times on story details and wanted fresh ideas. When I put questions out there on Facebook, it was fun to read people's suggestions and decide which ones I was going to incorporate! I used the same hashtag in each post, so that made it easy to go back later and search for all my questions and people's suggestions.

Here are a few of the questions I asked, and people's replies:

I need a good name for an exciting two-person video game that 13-year-old boys would enjoy. It can be about anything. We won't actually see the game being played; I just want one character to mention that he's going to kick his friend's rear in ________ as they go off to play it. (It can't be a real game!) Any suggestions would be appreciated! #TheStudentandtheSlave

Some of my favorite replies included Swords at Dawn, Combat Lords, Squid Racer, Dojo Showdown, and Duelists at Doom Mountain. I combined a couple of them and added a twist, and here's part of the scene in which the annoyingly arrogant Raymond ends up mentioning the game to a slave boy he trains with:

“My godfather sent me this awesome video game as an early New Year present, since he won’t be able to come this time. It’s called Showdown at Destiny Mountain, and it’s really expensive. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, ’cause I have so many others, plus I’ve been busy with my cavvara shil .... So anyway, you probably don’t know anything about video games, but if you were bored, I could show it to you. The two-player version is more fun.”

And another query related to Raymond and his family:

Question for those of you familiar with gyms and workout equipment. What sort of weights and equipment might you be likely to find in the home of a very rich family whose spoiled rotten teenage son competes in a martial art? (For those who have read my books, the martial art is cavvara shil, if that makes a difference.) The teenage son is the only family member who would use any of it. Also, what would be a good name for the room in his home where it's kept and used? Work-out room? Family fitness center? Something more lavish-sounding? #TheStudentandtheSlave

Suggestions included more details than I could mention, but pretty much everything in the following scene (except the trophies) came directly from my Facebook friends:

On Sunday morning, Steene climbed the stairs to the third floor, where he had been ordered to meet Raymond in the workout room. The boy wasn’t there yet, and Steene looked around, impressed. He had never seen a private home this well equipped with workout equipment: weights, elliptical, cable crossover, punching bag, and a treadmill and exercise bike positioned side by side in front of a large TV. Most of the equipment looked as though it was seldom used. Opening the fridge in the kitchenette, he saw a collection of energy drinks and bottled water. Nearby, a cupboard was stocked with energy bars of various flavors. A gigantic mirror stretched across one wall, and before it spread an open space covered with interlocking floor mats for cavvara shil practice. On a shelf that topped the mirror stood a little collection of cavvara shil trophies: five bronze, three silver, and two gold.

Here was my next question:

I need to come up with a good name for the leader of a street gang. He's burly (as you might expect) and wears his shoulder-length blond hair in dreadlocks. He has to have an actual, legitimate name, not just a violent-sounding nickname. Ideas, anyone? #TheStudentandtheSlave

There were so many great responses to this one that I picked several to use for other members of the gang. Axel became the leader, though - I loved that name for him right away. This snippet shows some of the others I picked:

Axel introduced everybody, and Bensin did his best to remember the names. Most of them sounded pretty ordinary: Joe, Tanner, Hugh, Randal, Sid, Vance. For some reason he had expected gang members to have violent nicknames, but nobody did.

Then I asked:

I need a name for a classy clothing store that treats its employees (and before slavery was outlawed in that area a few months earlier, its slaves) terribly behind the scenes. Suggestions, anyone? #TheStudentandtheSlave

There were so many creative answers to that one! My favorites included Minx, Couture Closet, Fancy Frills, Entitled, La Mod, Style Street, Racque (pronounced rack), Allure, Fabricated, Illusion, Flawless, Runway Chic, Sublime Design, and Premiere Designs. Here's the scene in the book where you'll see which one I picked:

Deiv lowered his voice. “You see that building way off in the distance? Eighteen stories, white with green trim?"


“That’s Entitled, Tarnestra’s classiest clothing store. Back before Emancipation, it had a reputation for treating its slaves worse than any other company in the province. Eighteen-hour work days, no lunch break, you mess up or talk back or show up late and they’d beat you half to death. Even after they had to free their slaves, they’ve treated their paid employees almost as bad. There’s more people looking for work in Tavallia these days than there are jobs, so they can afford to be as mean as they want.”

“Okay. So?”

“So, let’s just say that no one felt sorry for them the night they lost a bunch of their most expensive inventory and all the money in their cash registers.” Deiv grinned. 

Some of the most fun answers I received were when I asked about a possible gift for a little boy: 

I'm looking for fun and educational gift suggestions for a character in the book I'm working on. He's a 7-year-old boy of above-average intelligence and curiosity with an independent/rebellious streak. He plays chess, is learning martial arts, and skips school whenever he thinks he can get away with it (because it bores him). He's a former slave who stowed away on a boat by himself for a 3-day journey that resulted in his freedom. Now he's living with a kind stranger who took him in and has become his unofficial foster dad. This "dad" would like to get him something unique as a holiday gift (they exchange gifts on New Year's Day in this world). Any ideas? The culture and level of tech in this world are very similar to our own, if that helps. #TheStudentandtheSlave

Suggestions included a puzzle box similar to our Rubiks Cube, a kitten or puppy, a memory-making experience instead of an object, a chess set with the figurines of martial arts masters, an intricate marble run, a compass, mini terrarium kit, mock excavation kit, books about martial arts or chess, butterfly kit, dissection specimens, microscope, telescope, metal detector, origami kit. Here are parts of the scene I used a couple of the ideas in:

Lee met Bensin at the door and led him through the smithy and into the kitchen. “Come see what I got! Garrett and Will both gave me presents on Monday, ’cause free kids get presents for New Year when they’re good, and I’m almost always good." ... Lee grabbed Bensin’s hand and tugged. “See, look, Garrett bought me all those books there that tell about everything in the world.” He pointed to a set of encyclopedias, obviously used but still in good condition, arranged on the bottom shelf of the huge bookcase. “They go through the whole alphabet, but I’m only halfway through the ‘A’ one so far. Now I know all about accordions and agriculture and aircraft, but when I finish reading them all, I’m gonna be smarter than Garrett and Will both put together. And Will gave me a kit to build a telescope. Someday he’s gonna take me camping and we’ll look at the stars with it.” 

I'm deeply grateful to all those who gave me such great ideas for so many different aspects of the setting, characters, and other details. The Student and the Slave is a richer story as a result! 

If you would like to see more of how I incorporated people's suggestions, The Student and the Slave is on sale for just 99 cents through the end of November. Click here to download your copy before it goes up to $2.99! Or to read the trilogy in order, you can buy The Collar and the Cavvarach here and The Gladiator and the Guard here

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