Imagine: Thursday night, walking a mile into the city from the resort at the edge of the lake, to find the street filled with powerboats. Lengths ranging from 32-foot to 50-foot. Some of them tilted on their side, as they were too wide to fit, legally, flat on the trailer. The engines are pristine. Everything is gel-coated. The tow vehicles begin at $100,000, depending on the custom graphics and interior. The sound systems for every boat and every tow vehicle cost more than I make in three months. Up and down the street, stroll “prop bunnies”, the same women who wait outside backstage doors or lockerrooms. When racing, the 1050 hp motors get 1/10 of a mile per gallon. And that’s aviation fuel. Friday morning dawns with the rumble of engines turning over in the boat slips below my room. The colors of the fiberglass stand out against the blue water. Excitement increases as the boats line up for the Poker Run. $10,000 for the high hand. A rock-n-roll party on the beach that night, followed by fireworks. The Shootout is Saturday. A four mile course where a few of the competitors brag that they can hit the elusive 200 mph mark. The beach and the Channel are filled with moored boats, blasting stereos, topless men, women in pasties and thongs, dogs, skateboarders, old men videotaping the dancing girls on the pontoon boats as they idle up and down the Channel. Pizza at about 2 PM is worth $40. Ice chests full of beer and bottled water, plastic cups for mixed drinks, bags of chips. Laughter. Suntan lotion. Even I, who enjoys writing in busy restaurants and bars, was distracted.
Not much of a writer’s retreat, you might think, but check the vision my skeleton description created in your imagination. What about the conversations occurring on the moored boats? The ones between the drivers of the race boats and their crew? The negotiations between the pizza delivery guy and the boat full of drunk, hungry twenty-somethings? Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine what you would see, hear, feel, taste, smell? If you came upon this scene, what would you think? In my experience, it depends on your morals and values. I find it entertaining, though under my breath I’ve been know to say, “Not my daughter.” It is difficult not to stare, so I keep walking to not appear rude. In some cases, it is dangerous. Drunk boaters dive into two feet of water. Someone falls off, or sticks their legs over the back while the prop is running.
By attending an event such as a boat regatta in a place such as Lake Havasu, there are more people to observe and ideas to record than one could possible do in a handful of days. Poems and short stories and novels all can be seeded by what is observed through the senses. I considered this as I sat at my table in the lobby with all four of my books on display, my laptop set to show various PowerPoints that I have created that depicts each of my novels, and accompanying music. I’m not into hard sales. That rarely works anyway, and only annoys potential clients. So, I smile welcomingly when anyone looks my way or asks for mint from my bowl. One woman was interested in why I was there. In the end, an Action-Adventure Romance set in Historical Ireland with the heroine having the gift of clairvoyance, an Action-Adventure Contemporary Romance set in Baja, Mexico about gangs and drugs, an Action-Adventure Science Fiction Romance where the two main characters are supposed to be participants in an arranged marriage and end up saving colonists from a virus, or, of all things, a poem project about yoga (at first glance, none of the participants are even remotely interested in a spiritual path . . . then again, I’m sure more than a few felt they were moving closer to God) is simply not in the same league as the scene described in the first paragraph. On my elevator ride from the lobby to the third floor after my book signing, I thought perhaps that, if I wanted to appeal to the weekend crowd, I would need to employ all that I had witnessed in the first paragraph, combined with nearly thirty years experience of being on the River and the Lake.
It would have to be set in Lake Havasu. A boat regatta. A stolen engine design, the murder or mystery of a missing person (perhaps a wealthy sponsor), the driver and crew’s relationships, and of course, it would need to be an Erotic Romance. Fast boats, loose women, huge prize money, breaking the law, and breaking hearts. Ingredients for an Action-Adventure Romance novel that would appeal to a specific, but large, audience. I can even see it as a series with perhaps different lakes, or different teams. And to fit in with my titles, Of Boats and Babes, or something that would catch the attention of those walking through the lobby. A large poster of a 40-foot speed boat with a chick in a bikini. Now, that would sell!!
I began this blog to not only discuss my own writing, but to offer suggestions to others who partake in some creative venture. A writer’s retreat (or painter’s, cook’s, dancer’s, etc.) need not be to a place so packed with action that the mind spins, it just needs to be some place different. A cabin the woods, an apartment in the city, a bed and breakfast on a farm, a beach house, or a ski lodge are just scratching the surface of locales that offer an alternate view of our environment. It doesn’t have to be somewhere fancy. Your sister’s house for the weekend would work just as well. My suggestion would be to go without an agenda. If you’re working on a current project, you may feel motivated to make some headway on it. Or, this might the opportunity you were looking for to begin something new. Maybe you just want to take a break. In any case, take along something to write with and on. Even if you don’t plan to write or sketch, if you don’t have something, you’ll wish you did. Jot down ideas. Sit on a bench or a log and contemplate what caught your attention. Be interested. Observe. Don’t hurry. Question, perhaps, but don’t judge or criticize. When you return home, let it sit for a day or so. Then take out your journal or sketch pad, leaf through the notes, musings, drawings, and see what causes a spark of “oooohhhh, I like that”. As always, allow your muse to direct the flow.
I had such an interesting weekend. It had been awhile since I’d been away, and stepping out of my life for a few days has had a reinvigorating effect. Though my web site is in the process of being updated, there are several short stories and poems available for free reading. I owe my visitors the one about shopping for female undergarments, and now I’ll have to add one about the boat regatta. A poem or two may find itself on www.myjoyenterprises.com as well. If you find a great place for a writer’s retreat, leave me a comment.