In the case of The Victor, I was inspired by an image that popped into my head while listening to Amy Grant's song called "Fairytale".
Make a Wish was borne out of a desire to comfort a friend who was down in the dumps which then blossomed into 35 different wish fulfillment stories written as gifts for people I barely knew.
For In Plain Sight, I was challenged to write an "Amish" fiction. As a Southern California native, I wondered what I could possibly write that would be unique and original? After all I come from the land of "fruits and nuts". With that thought in mind, an image of crop circles popped into my brain. What would happen if crop circles showed up in Amish farmlands? How would they react?
A lot of ideas are born out of "what if" scenarios. I have just finished my fourth and latest manuscript; three years after I released In Plain Sight. It is a very personal "what if"? It's also a very frightening "what if" for me.
What if I lost my husband? The love of my life? The only man I've had a relationship with for over 30 years. What would I do? How would I go on? In reality I would probably curl up into a fetal position and grieve my heart out until I was committed to a mental institution but the idea became the inspiration for my most recent book which I have just submitted to an agent for traditional publication and it is also the most personal for me to date because it has my own family dynamic at play in the plot.
So now I wait and see if 1) the agent thinks it's good enough to submit to publishers, 2) a publisher will be willing to publish it, and 3) it reaches a big enough audience to bring attention to my previous works.
I never aspired to be an author, I just wanted to see The Victor in print after 30 years of writing and rewriting it. I enjoy writing...when I'm inspired to do so. Most of my writing talent has been spent on proof reading, formatting and editing scientific technical reports written by PhD types, commercial real estate offering memorandums and now property appraisals but when I'm inspired...I write stories.
I'm like Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke from the movie Out of Africa. Give me a few key words and I can make a story out of almost anything. It won't necessarily be a work of art but it will be a story.
So now I wait and see what happens. Below is the first few paragraphs of my fourth manuscript, what do you think?
PLAIN & SIMPLE
“The End of Normal”
Rachel Winston watched the undulating, green Pennsylvania farmland roll past the glass of the train window, her heart leaden. The bucolic scenery was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle she had left behind in Southern California a few days earlier. The green fields were dotted with white farmhouses and picturesque barns, small herds of cows, goats, and sheep grazing peacefully.
She grimaced to herself. The only thing missing was large letters floating in the sky that heralded WELCOME TO AMISH COUNTRY! Occasionally, she would catch a passing glimpse of an Amish buggy waiting at a train crossing and wondered if any of them held the man who was to pick them up at the station in Strasburg.
Rachel turned her gaze from the window and glanced at her teenage daughter, Karen, whose eyes were shut as she listened to her iPod. They had barely spoken for the entire three-day trip. Karen was still giving her the silent treatment, angry at being forced to leave her family, friends, and school behind. Rachel sighed in resignation. She had accepted the punishment as part of her motherly duty. She really didn't blame Karen for feeling the way she did. She was feeling pretty much the same way. If her mom had forced her to leave everything behind and move across the country against her will, she’d have been ticked off too. Financially, there had been no other choice, not after losing Kevin…her husband and the love of her life.
Rachel squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back the tears. A little over a year had passed since he had died in a car accident and still the pain was barely tolerable. She brushed away the tears that seeped down her cheeks, not wanting to give in to the grief when they were only ten minutes out from the station. Once she started she wouldn’t be able to stop and she didn’t want to frighten Mr. Miller with the spectacle of a totally unglued “English” woman having a breakdown in his buggy.
The train braked suddenly, slowing down and a voice came over the loudspeaker. “We will be pulling into Strasburg station in five minutes. Passengers, please make ready to disembark if this is your stop.”