Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ice Hockey and the Slipstream + Oculus Connection

I like writing about sports in fiction. J.K. Rowling did it with quiddich (or however it's spelled). I didn't want to make up a sport because that sounds too hard. So I chose one that I watch and understand. Ice hockey has a role to play in my first two books, and I'd like to explain why.

In SLIPSTREAM, the first book in my series A Crisis of Two Worlds, the entire plot hinges on Jordan getting an invite to a rather exclusive party that squad members from a professional team on an alternate Earth receive. It's his only way to get to a place so guarded, that other "secret agents" who tried to do so just got murdered. The sport you get in the first book is "wayyyy" out there intentionally. The sport you get in the second is down-to-earth, although I write about four separate games and in each one something sensational happens that you would rarely ever see.

In OCULUS, the sequel to Slipstream, Jordan must play hockey to attend Cornell University. Jordan needs Cornell like a man needs air to breathe. It's the only university that has everything he requires for his "quest". They have a particle collider. They have a scientist examining Antarctic ice cores for a climate change model. It really goes well together.

Here's the rub. Cornell has so many applicants every year, that they can pick and choose who they want. They are under no pressure to choose anyone at all. They don't need Jordan, but he needs them. And Jordan isn't rich. He has no "connections".

In the opening chapter of OCULUS, I speak of Jordan's S.A.T. scores. He got a perfect score in math.  But his other two areas were average. What gets him in are his hockey laurels. He gets a "likely" letter from the coach of the Cornell team and it is the coach who gets him qualified for a need-based scholarship (the only kind the Ivies have--they do not offer athletic scholarships).

OCULUS is the book where I amplify Jordan's stress to almost "stroke-inducing" proportions. His pride is to his doom. He won't ask for help. He won't cheat. And he won't take out loans. "Why?" you might ask will a student not take out student loans.

Jordan believes that his quest may kill him before he's 21. He's a proud person. He doesn't want to borrow money and never pay it back. So realizing that the odds are not weighed in his favor, Jordan refuses to borrow money. It's taking the whole "honor" thing to a dangerous extent.

It sounds ridiculous right? But THAT'S how stubborn he is. That's Jordan.

Jordan also knows that the only reason he's even in the college is to play hockey. So he feels that if he doesn't give it 150%, then he lets down someone that had faith in him--enough faith to save him.  Using the particle collider is really his only hope to succeed in his quest, so this is a pretty big deal.

I write with big stakes.  If Jordan doesn't complete his quest in Oculus, it will result in the destruction of Earth and the death of billions of people.

But again...even with all that at stake, he refuses to ask for help.

That's a lot of stress, don't you think?

Anyway, that's the ice hockey connection in my series thus far.

37 comments:

  1. I have added the new book to my Goodreads - to be read list! It sounds like it will be fun to read.

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  2. I love watching NHL but we don't really have much of it here in SA. I have to go to ESPN to watch and our d-sat has been switched off for the last 6 months - I'm getting withdrawal symptoms

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  3. I like stories where the stakes are big and also if things get personal. The refusing to ask for help reminds me of Clash of the Titans when Perseus refuses to use any of his God-like abilities even if it means putting lives at risk. This made me frustrated with Perseus, but he finally did.

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  4. But stressing out the characters makes for good reading.

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  5. That's a lot to digest. Big stress certainly = big stakes.

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  6. Well, I'm reading the book now and I'm about 10% done. Loving it.

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  7. Stubborn characters can frustrate me sometimes. But done well they can also be more memorable. Cornell also had Carl Sagan at one time. Good choice in a school I think.

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  8. It's on my goodreads list too. Though I whis I didn't have to wait until June for the paper print to come out...*taps finger on desk* (;

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  9. Another nitpick I have so far with the first book is how you keep referring to it as "ICE hockey". I mean sure there's also field hockey maybe but nobody calls it ICE hockey and certainly Jordan wouldn't in his own thoughts or dialog. He'd just call it hockey. I'm just saying.

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  10. You didn't tell me the destruction of the earth was at stake! He better play some damn good hockey then and stay in that ivy league school no matter how much it stresses him out. Finish the mission Jordan!

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  11. @P.T.: That was a conscious choice I made because not everyone who picks up a book is going to differentiate "ice" from "field".

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  12. He sounds like he has too much stress! Finances, test scores, team player...

    I guess that is the burden our characters must carry.

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  13. I'm really excited to read these! They just sound so great. And i'm from MN, so obvs hockey is up my alley

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  14. In response to the comment about referring to it as Ice hockey, I'd like to say that it's good that you do. To English readers,(especially girls), hockey is played on a muddy field in the depths of Winter. Ice hockey is something completely different.

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  15. I'm not very sporty, but I like this idea that in order to fulfill his quest to save the world, Jordan has to get in to a college that doesn't need him. Talk about pressure! That not only gives us a high-stakes scenario, but it provides strong motive for everything he does to achieve that goal.

    And I concur with Sarah. Growing up in England, and going to a school in which the boys played rugby and the girls played (field) hockey, if you talked about "hockey" everyone automatically assumed you meant field hockey. Your Brit readers, at least, will appreciate the distinction. :)

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  16. I will tell you, Michael, having had to pay for my own college with academic AND an athletic scholarship, it was so stressful.

    I felt like I had to go full steam all the time in every aspect while other kids had mom and dad write checks for tuition, room, and board.

    I broke out with hives for the first (and only) time in my life during Spring finals of my freshman year! And there was no respite in the summer, as I had to work to save money for school too.

    I love watching hockey, by the way. Go Blues!!!!

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  17. It's quidditch.

    I think it's interesting to add a sport to a novel because it adds dimension. It's good to reveal character too.

    Perfect score in math? I can't imagine.

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  18. Did you watch the frozen four? What was the name of that Cinderella school?

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  19. I went on the DD site. Your book is very reasonably priced. I am just waiting for one of my kids to come help me with doing the purchase. Both my husband and I are paranoid of using our credit cards on line. Beautiful cover. It will make any one pick it up and start looking inside the book.

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  20. I sort of skimmed this, and what I gathered is that billions of people die from watching ice hockey each year, but that a particle accelerator at some Harvard wannabe will avoid that.

    Am I kind of on point?

    Michael, the amount of thought that it seems you put into your books is amazing to me. I haven't yet bought "Slipstream" because I am overdrawn on my allowance because I let Mr Bunches talk me into taking him to Target over the weekend, which meant that after I bought him "Angry Birds The Board Game," I had to take Mr F to Barnes & Noble because Mr F doesn't like toys but does like books, and then Mr Bunches got an extra book, so he really knows how to work the system.

    But I AM going to buy it, and read it, and I expect to enjoy it.

    I am, however, disappointed that you did not pick my blog for a blog tour. Given that your book features hockey, I'd like to see you do a guest post on Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

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  21. Wow, stroke-inducing proportions sound heavy duty. I wonder if I could get through it myself? The story sounds amazing, but I always try to avoid stressful situations because it used to be my way of life. Big time.:)

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  22. This sounds so cool! I love using and reading sports in books. Made up or not. I really like hockey. I used to go to all the games in high school and it was a blast. I'm excited about BOTH books Michael. You've got an amazing mind and I can't wait to see it all on paper! :)

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  23. I will confess I skipped reading your post today because I don't want to know anything about your book before I read it. :) I have it sitting next to me and I hope to get a chance after registration today.

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  24. Speaking as someone with a very high math score on the SAT (it wasn't perfect, but it was -very- high), a perfect math score would have been an instant scholarship into any school without regard to any other scores. Unless they thought it was a cheat score or a fluke. But they'd investigate it. You wouldn't get that with perfect scores in other areas, but, with math, you would.

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  25. Soooooo stoked for you, Michael... When we spoke and you told me about Slipstream it only confirmed your brilliance. It truly is a fantastic premise!

    And loving the new look on your blog, BTW... :)

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  26. I took the SAT when I was in the seventh grade. My math score was far from perfect. -.- My reading score wasn't so bad though. And I took the PSAT this year (I'm in ninth now). It's not graded on the same scale, but I did much better.

    Annnnd... this comment was NOT supposed to be about my test scores. Anyway...

    I love this post, Michael! I love it so much. And I love Jordan already and I think I'm going to die before the paper back comes out.

    And that wasn't really what I was planning to write either (there goes my intellectual and deep comment) but I'm just too excited right now!

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  27. Those sound like interesting books--not being a sports fan, I'm not too keen on the sports itself, but I love the tension.

    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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  28. Jordan reminds me of my sister. She lives by a code and that's it! Using a sport in this way is a great way to include more tension into the story.

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  29. Jordan sounds like a real human being with a real fatal flaw, and that can make all the difference in the quality of a story. I'm really looking forward to reading Slipstream. And I'm still loving that cover.

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  30. Is this the first Ice Hockey/SF novel? I'm thinking it might be. Way to stake your claim, dude!

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  31. Yep, that is a lot of stress. But if there wasn't stress, there would be no story, right?

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  32. hmm I think I need spoiler warnings when you talk about your book because I haven't finished reading it yet. Sports in real life bore me but for some reason I don't mind reading about them.

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  33. @Alyson: eep. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to give away too much.

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  34. That's a great way to raise the stakes!
    I'd say more about hockey, but the Habs sucked this season, so...

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  35. I like reading about characters who are so bound by honour they do more harm than good. Ned stark is a classic example of this.

    Jamie
    Fellow A-Z Buddy
    Doing a monumental blog catch-up
    Mithril Wisdom

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