I retired, as most people do, with the intention of lowering my golf handicap and getting involved with some kind of volunteer work. The first goal was not met. In fact, my handicap went up by a couple of strokes after the first year. My second goal was achieved for a while.
Our local newspaper published a list of volunteer organizations that needed help. I chose tutoring at one of the penal institutions in the Charlotte NC area. It was extremely rewarding for a while, but after a change in administrators, I found the environment unconducive for teaching. I changed venues – a county run ESL and GED facility – and that, too worked until they stopped having volunteers teach.
About that time I took a writing course just to keep out of my wife’s hair. I had no idea how it would change my life. It started with writing a few short stories for my class. Then a friend - a locally known playwright – invited me to join his writers group. That generated more short stores until one idea I had was just too big for three to five thousand words.
“Write a book,” I was told.
“Who, me?” I replied.
And so I began. Now, years later AND seven book along the way I have settled-in to a life style that is what I was searching for, but didn’t know it:
My family is fortunate to have a summer cottage on a large Island in northern Ontario. The area has a culture of its own, and three of my last four novels are set in the area. It has been a rich source of inspiration. At first I thought the idea of writing about this small part of the world would be limiting, but then remembered authors like Philip R. Craig and Cynthia Riggs who made a good living writing fiction about Martha’s Vineyard. The Vineyard is better known than St. Joseph Island, Ontario, but is smaller and has fewer places to find skullduggery!
The decision has had some writing benefits:
- Having come to the area every summer for many years, I know a lot about the history, culture and geography—sources for ideas so hard to come by when developing a plot.
- Writing about one geographical area suggested repeating my characters, thus developing a series around a hero (in my case a heroine).
- Local residents are great sources for background and ideas.
- Best of all, both summer and year-round residents are a great market. I have had book signings for four years, and they get better each year. In 2014 I have sold out my order of 20 soft covers on two occasions.
Of course sitting by the water on a nice day with my laptop is not the worst venue for inspiration. Even on a rainy day, a cozy fire in the wood stove takes the chill off. Yes, even in summer we often run the stove! This is my life style three months out of the year but it fuels me for the remaining nine.
My latest published book, FORGOTTEN ROOTS, is an historic novel set at the time of the 1812 American war with Britain and Canada. The area around St. Joseph Island played a big part in that conflict, and I created a bit of a love story around it.