Reinventing the Wheel


For my fifth Nikki Garcia mystery, Nikki’s brother, Andy, is introduced as a character. He’d been mentioned in a couple of earlier Nikki novels, but this is his debut as a living, breathing character. Andy is a sleep researcher, studying the deep-winter sleep of black bears, and torpor, shorter periods of hibernation, in squirrels and chipmunks. In other words, it’s a subplot on mammal hibernation.

In the novel, Andy hypothesizes that our ancient ancestors, being mammals like bears, slept through the winters to lower their metabolism and conserve energy. He figured that if he were a barefoot Neanderthal, he’d find a cozy cave to curl up in, maybe even next to a family of bears. After all, the Pleistocene era, or last ice age, ended 11,700 years ago. It lasted for 2.6 million ultra-frigid years.

If human ancestors, Andy theorizes, could wake up in springtime, they would find that ice on rivers and streams had melted for easy consumption, berries were available on bushes for families to feast on, and the weather was far more tolerable on their feet.

I felt like a scientist! I’d discovered a theory for Andy to work on. Up to that point, I had not researched hibernation in humans, current or ancient.

I did a bit of research and guess what? I’d reinvented the wheel. In fact, an article in New Scientist described researchers working on ways to place astronauts into hibernation while they are flying to Mars and beyond. Space travel would be so much cheaper and easier if energy, food, water, and boredom could be conserved through deep sleep for long-distance space travelers.

Scientists based their true-life studies of futuristic hibernation on findings in the bones of early humans in northern Spain that showed inconsistent bone growth throughout the year. The skeletons of bears show the same inconsistency due to their hibernation.

Now I must re-focus and re-write Andy’s work. He’s still going to be a sleep researcher because he’s motivated by his wife’s sleepwalking.

I’ve just started this new Nikki mystery and I’m already loving it. Also, it’s set in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where Andy finds lots of bears sleeping in caves.


I might fly to Mars if I could sleep most of the way!

Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels and draws deeply from her experiences growing up in a small town in Mexico as well as her work and travel in over ninety countries around the globe. Her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series features a strong female protagonist whose private investigative work often takes her to foreign countries.

Photo Credits:

Reinvent the Wheel – Pinterest

Sleeping Bear – Atapuerca article, La Vanguardia

Neanderthal – Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Creative Commons

European Space Agency astronaut sleeping in Bag – European Space Agency



A Spark that Inspires a Novel

A miniscule thought that crosses my mind or an article I’ve read in a newspaper can light up like a distant sparkling star and inspire a story. If the spark grows and gains momentum, the concept might become a novel.

The spark in Revenge in Barcelona (my Nikki Garcia Mystery #3), was the city itself, its unique architecture, colorful history, rich culture, physical beauty, and its independent-minded people. The spark grew in my mind until I knew that Nikki should experience action, mystery, and danger in Barcelona.

The process of following a spark of inspiration is similar for many writers. Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, was inspired by a trip to Pamplona, Spain, to witness the running of the bulls and bullfights at the week-long San Fermín festival. He’d intended to write a non-fiction book about bullfighting, which had become a passion for him. Instead, the book became fiction based on Hemingway and his friends. In it, he explored the themes of love and death, a total reversal of what he’d originally intended.

This reversal of original intention happens to many authors of fiction, me included. The spark starts out with one concept, and it morphs into a totally different one. Yet the original spark, such as Hemingway’s bullfights, are often woven into the novel either as a theme or subplot, while the full storyline becomes much broader, richer, more scintillating.

Last week, I started my 5th Nikki Garcia mystery. The spark that lit up my imagination was a belt buckle that a man was wearing. It featured a mule.

I knew at that moment that I had to weave a mule or two into Nikki’s next novel. And where can I put a few mules? In a wilderness adventure, of course!


What sparks your imagination?


All photos are used in an editorial or educational manner.

Photo credits:

Sagrada Familia Steeples – Kathryn Lane

The Belt Buckle with a Mule – Pinterest