Life Experience or Imagination? J Vincent

While I was writing my Let's Have a Coze (Regency speak for Chat) to post on my website for August I came across my topic for this blog. I had starting writing a piece on proofreading but you’ll see that some other time. My topic for my Coze was housing for the British Army during the Peninsular War circa 1810. That was brought on by our planning to head out camping at the headwaters of the Rio Grande next week if all goes better for me. (I’m truly looking forward to the temp range of 70-48!) I realized as I keyed the Coze that I had used my experiences camping when writing about the soldiers and cavalry officers when they bivouac. Once we set up camp in the pouring rain so I can describe in very accurate detail the discomfort and some of the problems involved.

Several years ago we took a cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii. That involved five days at sea. One of our favorite activities was to walk on the promenade deck late in the evening. One night the ocean was fairly rough and the prow of the cruise ship was throwing up a huge fall of water and spray. I knew as we watched it that I would use this experience in a story. What follows is what I turned it into in Honour’s Compromise. Jamey and Cecilia were forced to marry. They have quarreled constantly but on the voyage from Portugal to England they have a moment of magic that shows them what could be.

Now accustomed to the gentle rise and fall of the deck, Cecilia walked with steady steps along the deck after she put the girls to bed. The waves rush against the hull, the sails flap, the yardarms creaks sounded a comforting symphony. The light from the night lantern muted the darkness, but not the tang of sea air. Cecilia stopped and gazed into the black night, nary a line separated water from sky but for small white caps that danced across the water’s surface. She watched them and imagined fairies skipping across the ocean as they sprinkled magic.

“Magic indeed,” mused Cecilia to the breeze. Even cross Mrs. Garret had been unable to mar the voyage. “If we could only stay aboard.” She let the thought trail away . Contemplation of the many memories she would treasure replaced it That Jamey had created them did not trouble Cecilia, for he had proven true to his word. In such close quarters he had not imposed upon her despite ample opportunity.

A sure measured tread approaching her added to the ship’s symphony. Even before his cologne of bay rum reached her, stirred her senses, she knew it was Jamey. When he halted behind her Cecilia she breathed in his scent without the usual struggle to resist. The weight of her cloak and then Jamey’s hands settled on her shoulders. When his hands dropped away, she frowned her regret and drew the wrap close.

“Julia and Harriet were asleep when I took up your cloak. I thought the wind would chill you.”

Cecilia watched two whitecaps race toward the packet. “It has a little. Thank you.”

“What do you watch so intently?” Jamey inquired as he stepped to the rail.

“The whitecaps.” Cecilia glanced at him. She grew weak in the knees beneath the charisma of his smile.

Jamey pried his gaze from her mesmerizing blue eyes and back to the water. He pointed toward the bow. “See that pair? They almost look like horses.” He chuckled. “That one is a juggler.”

“Some look like fairies,” Cecilia dared.

“Why, yes, they do,” he concurred.

Cecilia searched his features and voice for a jest and found none. “You agree?”

Jamey pointed to a whitecap. “See that one skimming along with an arm upraised?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.” Cecilia smiled at him and then looked back at the water. “There is another standing on his head.”

When her hand collided with his as both moved to point to a different whitecap, Jamey twined his fingers with hers. “How chilled you have become. We must go below.”

“Could we not take one turn about the deck before we do?”

With a gallant bow Jamey offered his arm. “I do as the queen of the fairies bids.”

Cecilia placed her hand on it and found he covered it with his.

“To warm it,” he said.

They strolled in companionable silence.

In my "darker" writing --I have a villain who has no qualms about torture or killing as he finds useful--that even in that there is the essence of reality drawn from anger, pain, and hurtful experiences. What experiences have you used in your writing? How do you alter them to accommodate fiction?


Reese Mobley said...

Wow, Joan. That's really wonderful.
It's funny how our brains store up these images for later use. We also set up a tent in the rain and then had it blow down on us in the middle of the night. I'm sure I'll put that in a book as well.

Have fun on your trip.

Rox Delaney said...

Oh, yeah, been there with the tents and storms. I only remember one time when we camped that it dind't storm, and it was so windy that day, we practically had to stake ourselves to the ground, along with the tent! I've never used those particular experiences, but I've definitely used others!

Pat Davids said...


Joan Vincent said...

Reese and Rox, Camping seems to lend itself to disaster as well as to some sublime moments. Like when I think of the stars at night in the mountains, so close and vivid it feels like you could reach up and touch them, or the wonder of a rainbow across the cliff tops or the laughter of my grandchildren and their questions and comments when we hike the trails and it all seems worth it. Thanks for stopping by.

Joan Vincent said...

Thank you, Pat!

Rox Delaney said...

When I first started writing romance, I discovered a large bull snake in my kitchen. I hate snakes, and that's an understatement. :) There was a grain scoop (large, flat-bottomed shovel) in the entryway that led into the kitchen, so I grabbed it, slammed that straight edge on the snake, jumped on top of the scoop part, and then stood there, hanging onto the handle, not knowing what to do next as the snake wiggled and writhed beneath the edge of the shovel.

While balancing on the shovel, my best friend called and asked what I was doing. I told her. She started laughing, and I told her that someday I would use that experience in a book.

I used it in detail in the first scene of my second book.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, I can see it perfectly! It reminded me of right after we bought our first house. The first time I went down the basement after moving in there was a garden snake lying in the middle of floor. Snakes do elicit strong reactions! Thanks for sharing that.

Penny Rader said...

I'm so not a camper, but I've longed to go on a cruise to Alaska. Definitely on my bucket list.

Many of my ideas have come from real life:

* My "Hi, Mom. It's me" story came from answering the phone when one of my kids called. What if a caller said that to someone who didn't have any kids. Or did she? (Soul Stealer)

* A migraine hit at work one day. On my lunch break I took a nap in my van. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered what would happen if someone drove off with me in the back seat? (A Work of Heart)

* I used to leave myself reminders on my answering machine. What if a writer leaves herself a message about how she's going to kill someone off...and it's not her machine? (All That Glitters)