Sun, sand, and peace
Last week's vacation took place on Jekyll Island, one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia. It's a tropical place complete with palm trees, sandy beaches, sea turtles, palmetto bugs, sand crabs, and fire ants. The island is home to around 200 tagged alligators and a growing herd of a subspecies of deer. It's between Cumberland Island (south) and St. Simon's Island (north). It's not as commercial as the latter and has more amenities than the former. Dolphins and sharks inhabit the water surrounding the island.
I'd originally planned the trip for January over the anniversary of my elder son's death. Instead I came down with a nasty case of COVID-19 which forced me to reschedule.
I visited Jekyll Island over 20 years ago when my children were very young, the younger one still in diapers. It's changed since then. The old, worn out hotels and condos are gone, replaced with newer, more modern facilities. The beach, however, remained much as I remembered it, albeit with fewer whelk shells to pluck from the sand. This time, I visited with friends, Cindra and Jessica. Jess is the youngster of our trio.
Our vacation began with lovely sunrises then segued into loosely planned activities. One day we took the historical tour twice—first by "train" and again by horse-drawn carriage—of the village established by the island's former millionaire owners who used it as a winter vacation destination. Each tour guide offered somewhat different narratives, which were fun to piece together.
At one time, one-sixth of the world's wealth was concentrated on that tiny island, so you can imagine the history it acquired through those Industrial Age robber barons. Through the clever use of eminent domain and foreclosure on unpaid taxes, the government of Georgia evicted the last members of the ultra-exclusive Jekyll Island Club and turned the island into a state park. Development, including the four golf courses, is restricted to not more than 35 percent of the island, leaving the rest to wilderness and the creatures that inhabit it.
We went horseback riding on Driftwood Beach on the north end of the island. We didn't see many sunbathers or swimmers on that beach. We did see dolphins and fishermen and one woman shoveling sand to build a sand sculpture.
We took long walks on the eastern facing beach and enjoyed the waves rolling over our feet and the ocean breezes blowing over our sweaty skin. We toured the Beach Village, the island's commercial district populated by souvenier and clothing shops, dining establishments, a small grocery, and a liquor store. By the way, during our stay, we never ate at the same restaurant twice for lunch or supper, and everything we ate was good. Some of it was really good. I highly recommend the Driftwood Cafe and the Wee Pub.
We spent some time relaxing on the hotel patio. On our side of the hotel's two wings, each room had a small patio equipped with plastic Adirondack chairs and tiny matching tables. The chairs were uncomfortable, but the tables were just large enough to hold one easel each. We painted, too, our artwork reminiscent of island views.
As all good things must come to an end, so must my unplugged vacation. On the drive back home, Cindra's GPS sent us in an unexpected direction which we decided to follow for one last adventure. It's a good thing we did, because her car died in Wheelersburg, Ohio. We made the acquaintance of Mike, Brandy, Dale, and Wilbur who all offered kindness, assurances of safety, and assistance while we waited for the AAA tow truck. Had we ignored the GPS and stopped at a rest stop, we would not have fared so well, I'm sure.
I brought my Kindle for reading, but instead read actual printed books. I used my cell phone to keep in touch with my husband, but for little else. I did not check email, Facebook, or other social media. In short, I was about as unplugged as one can get these days ... and it was good. Peaceful. Quiet.
Report from MARCON 57
I spent A rainy Mother's Day weekend at the Multiple Alternate Realities Convention (MARCON). It was held at the Crowne Plaza Columbus North in Worthington, Ohio. It was my second year there. Long-time attendees and vendors noted that the event has dwindled in size, formerly being held in one of the large convention hotels adjacent to the (enormous) Columbus Convention Center. I guesstimated attendance at about 300 people, including vendors.
MARCON is organized by dedicated volunteers who do a good job of keeping things runnings. However, the future of the event is uncertain as the organizers are retiring from service: it's a lot of work to plan and manage an event of that size. I know, because I've done it.
For all its small size, the event featured several tracks of programs ranging from topics discussing the future of MARCON to performances by the Harp Twins to seminars on writing and panel discussions on various aspects of literary genres. (The Volfgang Twins, also musicians, provided security, merchandise design, and accompaniment for the Harp Twins.) Those who enjoy role playing games and fantasy/science fiction themed games had plenty of opportunity to indulge in their passions, too. Fantasy and science fiction-oriented groups, such as the Royal Manticoran Army, were present in force and in costume ... er ... uniform. Cosplay among attendees made for interesting people-watching. We saw some excellent costumes.
Every vendor always hopes to make money. In the Dealers Room, vendors ranged from a handful of indie authors (including me) to jewelry sellers (notably the Amber Fox Jewelery) to on-site toy stores. The vendor to the left of me sold CDs with "space music." Most instrumental, the music served as background sound for those who enjoy that sort of musical ambiance. The vendor to the right sold his books and offered free writing advice. I and my best friend Cindra sold books and paintings. About half of the paintings displayed for sale were hers.
Sales of paintings exceeded book sales. That was disappointing—for me, at least. However, I earned enough in sales proceeds to cover the cost of registration if not to cover hotel accommodations and meal expenses. I won't need to restock much, if at all, for the next event in June. I doubt my latest book, Knight of the Twin Moons, will be available by then. (It's scheduled to come out by mid-July.)
For me, the highlight of the weekend was finally meeting one of my very favorite clients, author Dominic Brogsdale, in person. He's taller than I expected. Dominic only stopped by for a moment, but he demonstrated his kindness and generosity by purchasing a couple of paintings, one for himself and one for his mother. What sweet guy! (Ladies, take note: you could do a lot worse than this young man.)
If MARCON will be continues for another year, I'll register as a vendor. But someone will have to pick up the reins and take charge of the event.
Check out my EVENTS page for upcoming events where I'll be attending as a vendor. Even if you don't buy anything, it's always a pleasure to speak with readers and other writers. And if you're looking for professional editing or ghostwriting, contact me.
A popular romance trope is the "secret baby" or the "unexpected pregnancy" following a one night stand. I depsise that trope because anyone living in a literate society should know by the age of puberty how babies are made. It's not "unexpected," it's irresponsible.
Where the romance trope and real life diverge is the consequence of that unplanned pregnancy or "secret" baby. In romance, the ending is happy: mother, baby, and father get a happily ever after. (Substitute stepmother or stepfather where appropriate per story.) Anyone who's raised children know there is no true happily ever after.
Again, here's where reality clashes with expectations. Children have minds of their own. Yes, they really do. What they don't have is the cognitive maturity and life experience necessarily to make wise choices or decisions about their own lives or the lives of others.
Wisdom has little to do with intelligence. Smart people do, say, and believe stupid things all the time. Intelligence also has nothing to do with morality. Some of the world's worst criminals and more morally degenerate people were and are brilliant. That's one thing comic books tend to get right: the most dangerous criminals are the smart ones.
In another forum, I recently came across a distinction between "realism" and "verisimilitude." It struck a chord with me, as I have often urged writers to inject realistic elements into their stories. After all, what anyone can verify within a minute's Google search should be verified. Elite military operatives don't hold hands when exploring an unknown cavern. Horses don't eat mushrooms. Nobody with a lick of sense bales and stacks hay shirtless. Regardless of the kind of bullet, something has to propel it down the rifle's barrel. If not gunpowder, then what?
Realistic elmenents give even the most wildly impossible stories verisimilitude, a semblance of truth, that sense that, yeah, it could happen. As I've said before: if the reader can't trust you with the small, easily verified details, he or she won't trust you to lead him or her into the realms of impossibility.
When initially drafting a story, verisimilitude isn't the author's first goal. The greater concern is getting the story down in tangible format. The first round of review and revision leading to the second draft tackles the large plot holes, the areas that don't make sense, the jumps back and forth in plot. A second round of review and revision leads to the third draft. That round focuses on checking facts—making sure what's supposed to be realistic really is realistic—and massaging language. A third round of review and revision results in a fourth draft. In that round, the author focuses on copy errors. At that point, the manuscript may finally ready for beta readers or an editor.
Take responsibility for your stories to ensure verisimilitude and teach your readers to trust you.