The obsession began last April while attending an Arizona writing conference. I saw a pink felt cowgirl hat at a western boot store where 8Lady Justine and I were engaged in retail therapy. It was cute, but nothing exceptional. Still, it called to me. I checked the price. It wasn’t horrible, but it made me wonder why I wanted it at all. It was just a kid’s hat.
I walked away to finalize my boot choice, but it wasn’t long before I was drawn back to the hat. I picked it up and ran my finger around the crown, a dreamy sort of feeling coming over me at the soft touch of the felt. Checked the price tag a second time, put it down, and walked away again. Just before we left the store, I took one last look. I won’t deny it. I wanted that silly little hat, but couldn’t figure out why. It’s not like I could wear it. Plus, I’d be burdened with the thing on the plane ride home.
I left the store without it.
By the time I reached Justine’s home (some distance away), I deeply regretted leaving the hat behind. A regret that grew over the next few days until it reached “I can’t leave Arizona without it” proportions. A little voice in my head was throwing a fit and I realized it (and the hat) belonged to River (my hero’s five-year old daughter).
Needless to say, I ended up getting that cowgirl hat (thank you for indulging me in a second shopping trip, Justine). I handled it carefully during the trip home, stowing it in a cloth tote bag which I kept on my lap the entire trip. Like a precious crystal figurine, it’s currently displayed on the top of a bookcase in my office, the outside of the crown decorated with a collection of pins (the voice begged for those pins, too).
Since then, that voice has popped up at the strangest times, but I’ve learned to listen when it does. Last summer in San Antonio at RWA Nationals I wanted to buy jewelry. The voice wanted a small, red cowboy boot and a classic cowgirl calendar. See the calendar and red boot in the picture above? Yep, the kid got her way again.
When I found a miniature replica of a cart and pony being driven by a little dark-haired girl, I finally began to understand. I wasn’t in the middle of my second childhood. The growing collection was providing something that I needed. Something that made me smile, kept me engaged in my story even while I was away from the keyboard, and sparked my creativity. I was creating a 3D version of the type of collage the 8Ladies were assigned to create while studying at McD. A discovery collage.
Which brings me to yesterday morning. While taking photos to include with this post, I heard the voice. A trilogy, it whispered. Okay (I thought). Fine. A three book series (I’d planned to write a series anyway), centering around Dry Creek. No, the voice said more insistently, three books that feature or star River.
That was a revelation that I instantly knew was right. River’s story will slowly unfold across three novels. In my current WIP her childhood (and search for a mother), will unfurl. In Cord’s story (up next) she’ll be in the middle of her teenage years, interning in the sheriff’s office for the summer (Cheyenne and Reed are off on an adventure). Poor Cord will be saddled with the sassy, sixteen-year old trouble magnet–which won’t exactly be conducive to romance. A good thing, since romance is the last thing on Cord’s mind. Until con-artist Sloan Deveron hits town, that is. As you’ve probably guessed, the last book in the trilogy will star a grown-up River pursuing a career in law enforcement, as well as her own HEA.
Truthfully, I’m rather shocked at all of this. I had no idea when I bought that little pink hat a year ago that it would be the creative inspiration for my next two books. These new discoveries will mean a few changes to River in my current WIP since I finally understand what she’s been trying to tell me for months. River is a cowgirl who idolizes her Uncle Cord. A peewee wild west version of a law officer with a little pink felt hat, and a couple of (pink) six shooters. Given the gun violence running rampant in schools today, I’ll probably take some flak for the toy guns, but right now River as gunslinger is the segue into the next novel.
Plus I owe the kid big (or so she tells me, and she hasn’t been wrong yet).
Who or what is your creative muse? What have they/it whispered (or shouted) lately?