When the Real World and the Fictional One Collide

Every once in a while I’ll see someone, usually a customer, and think, hey, he/she looks exactly like so and so. And then I’ll remember that so and so is a figment of my imagination, and worry that maybe I’m not normal. Then I remember that normal is boring and go back to daydreaming about my story and my imaginary friends.

Recently, I had another experience where my imaginary world collided with the real one. I’m working on a series of suspense/psychological thrillers that take place in the fictional town of Grandville. The town is modeled after my hometown in Oregon. We lived a few miles out of town on a country road and some of my friends owned horses. While my attempts at horseback riding usually involved me hanging on for dear life with my eyes shut I still enjoyed being around the beautiful animals.

One of the two main characters in my work in progress (Current title: A Convincing Accident) works as a Ferrier. While I knew it was the perfect occupation for him, I also knew I should do a bit more research on the subject. So, what happens? Only weeks before visiting our daughter in Colorado, she tells me about her new friend, who happens to be a Ferrier. Not only was he willing to talk about his job, and answer questions, he invited us to come along and watch him shoe a horse. (Thanks again Isaac!)

The experience helped me to know my character better. When you write about someone who is quite a bit different than yourself, you need to know as much about them as possible. I’m a firm believer that what a person does for money does not define them, but obviously, it does matter. It’s also important for plotting purposes. I now know that if he’s late for a job, no one will be shocked. (Of course, no one is shocked when I’m late for work either, but that’s a different story. Smiles sheepishly.) Waiting for the Ferrier is kind of like waiting for the cable guy or the plumber—you’d better leave the whole day open. (On the positive side, there will be no visible butt cracks for your viewing displeasure. A Ferrier is likely going to be wearing Wrangler jeans, which actually fit properly.  Admission: I may have had a crush on a cute wrangler-wearer once upon a time, but he never did ask me out. Hm. Maybe this where my cowboy character originated.) Anyway, I also learned that the job is even more physically demanding than I suspected. Muscles required. (Always good to have a reason to put muscle on a male character. Not like those romance heroes who have them for no particular and not once is it even hinted they might actually go to the gym and work out.)

There was another, even stranger, almost spooky coincidence during my trip to Colorado. We spent one night at the ranch where my daughter did a work-trade the summer before. It was a fun experience (we slept in a yurt, my daughter in a teepee.) We were invited to dinner by our hosts. Not only was the food delicious, the conversation was interesting, even when they discussed religion. I kept my opinions to myself, not surprisingly. When there are more than three people in a room I tend to go into listening mode. (In the eighth grade my homeroom teacher named me “The Silent Observer.” It’s still appropriate in certain situations.) Anyway, one of the women who works on the ranch told a story about her son. When he was fourteen he got into a fight with another boy. Unlike the movies where pounding the bully to a pulp will earn you praise from everyone—including the adults— in the real world, (at least in modern times) it gets you assault charges and possibly a conviction that can hang on and haunt you for years.

Well, it just so happens that this is exactly what happens in my book, to my Ferrier guy. In fact, the whole story is hinged on this event. A fight, at fourteen, has a profound effect on the rest of his life. Turns out, the bully who received the (arguably) well-deserved beating is not the forgetting or forgiving type. He’s seeking revenge, many years later, in the form of inflicting “emotional destruction,” on the boy who hurt him, and the girl he was defending. So, there you have it, the premise for A Convincing Accident. Does it sound intriguing?

Why did you let me go on for so long anyway? I should be writing the book!

Oh, and by the way. (Imagine me smiling modestly.) My Tammy J. Palmer books received a glowing mention from Sarah Raplee, on a popular romance blog. Her Amazon page and books are here: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Raplee/e/B014XDP5NG

Thanks again Sarah!

You can read it here: https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/

Have a great weekend!

Maps, Outlines, and Driving in the Dark

 

I’m not good at finding places, especially not at night. Jim is the one who made sure the kids got to all of their sporting events on time. He usually coached, and I worked a lot of evenings so this arrangement worked for us. But there was this one time when Jim had a work thing, and I was responsible for getting my son to the first basketball game of the first tournament with a new team. I want to call it the ‘elite’ league because I don’t remember what it was actually called. I do remember this game being a big deal. And we were late. And I could not find the building. (No I-phones or GPS back then.) My stress level kept rising. It did not help that my preschool- aged nephew, who I happened to be babysitting that day, was in the back seat saying, “You need a map Aunt Tammy,” over and over again.

I woke up from a nightmare this morning, about a dark and stormy night—no wait, that’s a different story, it just very dark–and I was by myself driving on an unfamiliar highway. There was a sign, but I didn’t recognize the name of the road ahead. It went up the side of a mountain. There were no lights and no guardrails and no houses on either side, just a road. I had no idea where it would take me and I was terrified. At the last second, a turnaround miraculously appeared. I took it. My fear instantly ceased. I was heading back to the familiar.

I’ve been struggling to finish my book, a thriller of sorts (Or is it a suspense? Psychological suspense? Genre still confounds me.) Every time I get to a certain point, around 100 pages, I get stuck. Each time, I end up turning around and going back to the beginning. I start over. And over and…well, you get the idea. I’ve always resisted the idea of an outline. “Writing the story won’t be any fun if I know everything that happens!” It’s also not much fun to be the hamster, stuck in a cage, running on a wheel. Sure, it’s good exercise, but when you stop, you’re still in the same place. You’re also still trapped. (I know, I’ll start a petition to free all rodents everywhere!) I also have a little procrastination problem, but that’s another subject.

So, I woke up from my nightmare this morning with the words, “You need a map Aunt Tammy,” going through my head. Wise kid. I need to figure out exactly where this story is going, or I will never reach the end. And I need to get over my fear of the dark.

In case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my son to his basketball game. When we arrived, there was a volunteer sitting at a desk blocking our way into the gym. Turns out, there is a small fee for these tournaments. Cash only, of course. And no, I did not have any on me.

“What the hell do you mean, I have to pay to watch my own kid throw a ball through a hoop!”

Did I mention I was a little stressed? I think I ended up borrowing money from the coach’s wife. The rest of that night is fuzzy.

Well, I guess it’s time to start on my outline. After I eat breakfast and read the paper, of course.

Happy Hump Day!