Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bump in This Writer's Road

I hit a bump in the road.

It happens, okay ...

I was typing away on my next great masterpiece. In this particular part of the story, Kimberly -- the protagonist -- is taking her ex-husband to court over his summer visitation with their children. It's not that she doesn't want him to see the kids ... or vice-versa ... it's just that he's been reportedly hanging out in too many bars, with too many leggy women who may (or may not) be spending the night in his hot new bachelor's pad. Kimberly is concerned, as any mother should be, about the welfare of her children.

So she goes to court.

I know the family court system well. (See my post about our adoption of our little one...) and I know how the legal system can work against you as easily as it can work for you. I also know how the system works here in Florida. Some issues go before the judge -- the grand master who sits behind the big high desk donned in flowing black robes (the grand master, not the desk) -- and some go before the General Magistrate.

They don't wear robes but they do sit behind big high desks and sometimes they are more frightening than the judges they are there to represent.

The feel of being in the courthouse ... the smells ... the sounds ... the sight of it. This is know.

So, Kimberly is taking her request for a more controlled summer visitation to the G M. She is not bringing legal counsel with her (also sometimes the way it goes).

As I am typing away -- impressing even myself on how well the words are flowing from my fingertips --I have a sudden thought. Would she, I questioned, have an attorney for this or no? Should she? Could she represent herself (often the case with a G M hearing...)?

This, I don't know.

So I called a friend of mine who works within the family court system. She didn't answer, so I left a message. I waited for a return call. I didn't get it. I called again. Still, nothing.

Could she be out on vacation, I wondered ...

My main character is sitting in the courthouse waiting area with her sister Heather by her side. Her ex-husband is across the way, standing with his attorney. The sister remarks, "I thought you didn't need an attorney for this hearing ..."

"I don't," Kimberly replies.

And that is when it hit me ... I don't know for SURE!

Thus the call and the waiting and the not getting any writing done for days. This, as any writer will tell you, presents a dangerous problem. Getting out of the heads of the characters, out of the flow of the story, out of the mood entirely! Dangerous!

Finally, I had another thought. Hey! I'm a FICTION WRITER! HELLO! I can make this up until I know for sure. For absolute certain.

"So then," Heather now says as my fingertips return to the keyboard of my computer, "why is Charlie with his?"

And then story begins to flow again. And I'm liking it!

Here's hoping they don't need an attorney for this ... 'cause that's the way I wrote it.

Writing on ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Research, Research, Research/Location, Location, Location

There is an old saying in the world of real estate. It goes like this:

Location, location, location.

But what does it mean? Primarily, that the LOCATION of a property is vitally important to the buyer, therefore to the seller. It is repeated three times so as to be remembered.

We, those of us who call ourselves writers, use that same line. "Location, location, location."

Without location we know little about our characters. A girl growing up in the 1950s rural South will have a different characterization than one growing up in the new millenium, New York City. Or, New York State for that matter.

Location also becomes a character. People who have read Things Left Unspoken
and who have emailed me about the book's setting (Cottonwood, GA), have declared Cottonwood a character unto itself. This is because I worked hard as a writer to make it come to life through word pictures and through the characters who live there.

The same sentiment goes for Summit View, Colorado, which is where the Potluck Club books are set.

I am currently working on a new series, which has a working title of "Return to Cedar Key." Unlike most of my "locations," this one is real. The others are
based on real places, but are, in fact, fictious.

Cedar Key is located on the west coast of Florida, near the panhandle. I found it a few years ago, more or less by accident. A friend of mine, Janice Elsheimer, and I were looking for a place to "get away" and write. I lamented my problem to my hairdresser, who told me about Cedar Key. When I shared the idea with my friend, she said, "Let's load up!"

And so we did.

I fell in love with Cedar Key almost instantly. For one thing, in those days, once my car drove off the mainland and onto the island, cell service was nonexistent. If an emergency occurred, my family would have to call the hotel and ask for my room number. Otherwise, I was O U T. Don't call me, I'll call you. Maybe.

But there was more than just the being able to get away from it all. There were the sunrises on the east side of the island and the sunsets on the west. There was the incredible cuisine. The people -- easy going, laid back, good folk. There was the history. The boat rides through the Gulf and the marshlands, dolphins dancing behind us in the wake of water. There were the birds -- scores and scores of varieties of birds -- and the local artists with their crafts for sale. There was sitting out on the baloncy with Janice in the cool of the evening, watching the moon's reflection as it dipped and swayed on the ripples of the inky water. Two friends sharing the night, conversation, secrets kept forever. That's what friends do.

And so we returned. Time and again, we returned. It was during one of these trips that I was flipping through a magazine. I stopped, drawn by an ad that featured five young women sitting together in a beach house, all wearing white. Four of them looked alike. One was markedly different.

I ripped the page from the magazine and showed it to Janice. "There's a story here," I said. And I went on to explain what I saw as a novelist.

In June 2009, Janice and I returned so that I could begin the research and development of my next novel series, currently called Return to Cedar Key.

It's about five women ... four who look alike and one who is markedly different.

I am going to ask you to join me on an exciting adventure. I am going to take you through the next six months of my journey as I write Book One of the Return to Cedar Key series. Join me, won't you? Invite your friends, too. I look forward to sharing this most marvelous gift with you ... of creating a world within a world and people who live within our imaginations.