Monday, July 21, 2014

Dear Charlie:

I just had one of the funnest weekends ever, which is strange, because I barely got any sleep at all, and that's usually a dealbreaker.

A few months ago, my beloved sister and I decided that we needed to head down to Dad's farm in the boonies for a writer's retreat. We haven't been able to get much done on our collaboration for a year, and we were hoping that sitting out on Dad's back deck in the quiet, looking at the peaceful view, sipping ice tea and listening to the birds and the breeze would give us the opportunity to really reopen those creative channels. We wanted to do it in June, but that didn't work for either of our schedules, so we decided on July, even with the expected heat.

Thank you, polar vortex. It was beautiful weather, only made more beautiful by how cool and shady it is on Dad's back deck.

Anyway, she did have to bring her three girls, but they rode horses for the most part, so we were able to knuckle down and brainstorm. And oh, what brainstorming. Some of the things we'd just kinda thrown out there before suddenly made all the sense ever. Accidental things. See, we're writing two separate points of view: I'm writing the sarcastic jerk of a private detective while Joely's writing the tortured but willing-to-do-anything-she-has-to heroine. Thus, we didn't give each other all the details about our characters or their backstories, so we were just kinda winging it in a lot of ways.

None of that should have worked. None of that should have come together seamlessly. BUT IT ALL TOTALLY DID.

Once we put our heads together and started really hashing out the details, hammering down the family tree, determining just what's in the artifact the heroine is so desperate to find, outlining exactly what happened twenty-four years ago that sent them both spiralling toward devastating futures that may well end them both... it all started making perfect sense. It's like it was all planned out before we even started. But it wasn't. I swear, it wasn't.

It's just... magic. Unbelievable, awesome, creativity-juicing magic. It's glorious.

Plus, we got to go visit the haunted slave plantation that served as the inspiration for our little tale. We grew up in the same town as that house and heard all sorts of crazy things about it, but this was a guided tour by the grandson of the owner, who is a local history buff and told us plenty of history before sending us off with the kid to look around to our heart's content. Oh, and we also got to enter the little cemetery just off from the house and within sight of the road. People think it's a slave cemetery, but it's actually a family-and-friend plot. Some of the stones have fallen over, while others are so worn from weather and time that you can only make out letters by touch, but we spent a good, long time looking around, feeling the ambiance, reading the inscriptions and wondering. And plotting.

I know I'm a nerd for getting such a kick out of something my nieces found boring as hell, but Joely and I were damn near giddy by the time we got back into the minivan and left.

And we got actual writing done. We each got new direction and impetus on the story, and we're determined that, whether it's too long or not marketable enough or firmly within any specific genre or whatever, we're by God finishing this story. It's a BIG story. It's an amazing story. It's begging to be told.

The rest is secretarial.

Oh, and we also ate fresh veggies from Dad's garden, Joely's fancy spaghetti made with her favorite wine, went to the cheese factory in our home town, bought sweet corn from some Amish folk, ate blackberries the size of my thumb right off the bushes at a distant cousin's house, stood on the edge of a ridge and looked at the local-famous bluffs across the valley, and had a perfect bonfire one night, during which we told ghost stories and strange happenings and did a little stargazing (when we could get the girls to look away from their iPhones, of course).

So, no, I couldn't sleep the first night because I'm so used to living alone that all the other people in the house and their little noises and movements and the unfamiliar bed kept me from conking out. And yes, I did wake up obscenely early the second morning even though I'd rather walk on my eyelids than be out of bed before noon any other weekend. And yes, I basically got through the entire weekend on a scant five hours of sleep and still had to go to work today and function normally.

Totally worth it. It was a glorious weekend. I can't wait to repeat it.

Though I could skip that "couldn't sleep at all the first night" part. That part kinda sucked.